ROGERS Hernandez surprised by dedication
Rogers won a boys soccer tournament last week at Fort Smith Northside, an accomplishment that meant even more when the Mounties dedicated the tournament to coach Leo Hernandez and his wife, Sarah, who were expecting their first child.
Rogers went 3-0 and won the championship, 4-3 over South Moore, Okla., on penalty kicks after regulation ended in a 0-0 tie.
“They surprise me when they said before our first match they wanted to dedicate the tournament to my wife and I, who were expecting our new-born girl,” Hernandez said.
Three days later, Lucy Mae, was born at Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville.
“She’s doing great,” Hernandez said. “Baby and wife are both doing great and we’re very excited knowing she’s going to be a soccer player.”
Hernandez is in his first year as boys soccer coach at Rogers after spending the previous six years as an assistant at Springdale Har-Ber. The move meant a return to Rogers, where Hernandez played high school soccer for former Mounties coach Stephen Peck.
“I came back home to continue his legacy,” said Hernandez, who graduated from Rogers in 2008. “He was my high school coach and he’s now my mentor. I get to learn from him about being a head coach.”
— Rick Fires
HARRISON Lady Goblins making progress
The Harrison girls are making steady process after replacing 10 players from a team that went 17-6-1 last season while reaching the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament.
A 6-0 win over Mountain Home Tuesday moved the Lady Goblins past the .500 mark at 3-2-1 on the young season.
“We jumped on them pretty good,” Harrison coach Chris Pratt said of the Goblins, who scored all six of their goals in the first half. “We’ve got girls over from basketball and they’re trying to get their soccer legs under them. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re making progress.”
Harrison is led by multi-sports star Clare Barger, an all-state basketball player who had two goals and two assists in the win over Mountain Home. Barger has signed with John Brown University, where she’ll play basketball and participate in track and field.
Senior co-captains Noel Paul and Rylee Myers along with senior goal keeper Sydney Hobson are also top players for Harrison, which was scheduled to play at Greenwood Thursday, weather permitting. Harrison is expected to host Farmington in a conference game tonight.
— Rick Fires
GREENLAND Pirates work quickly for sweep
Greenland didn’t even need a full seven innings Monday in order to complete a doubleheader sweep of 2A-1 Conference foe Ozark Mountain.
The Pirates earned 19-0 and 18-3 victories over the Bears that were both called after three innings because of the run-rule.
“I didn’t think about that,” Greenland coach Jordan Larkan said. “In the first game our pitcher (Braxton Harp) threw really well, and our offense is the strength of our team this year. We ended up scoring a bunch of runs.”
Greenland (5-1, 3-1) has made the move to Class 2A after being in 3A for a number of years. It’s caused the Pirates to swap games with rivals West Fork and Lincoln for longer trips to Ozark Mountain, Yellville-Summit and Cotter.
Greenland, however, has its entire roster back from last year, when it played 4-5 freshman with 3-4 seniors.
“We have tons of experience this year,” Larkan said. “We have a lot more depth to work with this year, and now it’s a matter of finding the right mix and where to play certain players when other players are pitching.”
The Pirates will leave out today for Orlando, Fla., to play games during their spring break.
— Henry Apple
NORTHSIDE Grizzlies ‘living right’ after sweep
Four games into the 6A-West schedule, the Northside Grizzlies are pleased to be sitting 3-1.
“The guys are playing real well,” Northside coach Will Hankins said. “We’re pitching real well right now. We’re having to scrap where we can and not giving up, keep fighting. That’s where we were at the last two nights. It’s exciting.”
Northside swept Springdale in close games, winning 3-1 and 3-2. Tuesday’s game at Springdale was decided on Will Rollans’ sacrifice fly that played Jaxon Stephens for the decisive run in the top of the eighth.
“We’re living right, I guess,” Hankins said. “That’s been our nemesis the last two years. I think we’ve had 16 to 18 games we’ve lost by two of fewer runs. We had trouble finishing games. It’s been nice to be on the right side of it.”
Starters McLane Moody and Jayden Duggar have been brilliant so far in conference play. Moody has allowed one earned run in 10 2/3 innings in two starts. Duggar has allowed three earned runs in 11 inning in two starts.
Garrett Springs closed out Tuesday’s win with two innings of scoreless relief to earn the win.
The Grizzlies head to Alabama for spring break where they will play at least four games and possibly six before returning to 6A-West play on March 27 at Fayetteville and March 29 at home against Fayetteville.
— Leland Barclay
SOUTHSIDE Arizona games await Mavericks
The Mavericks head to Arizona for spring break with six 6A-West games already under the belt.
“We’re 3-3, six games into it,” Southside coach Dale Harpenau said. “It’s not the worst place in the world to be. It’s early in the season, and we’ve played three conference series. It’s kind of different.”
It’s been a mixed bag for the Mavericks so far. They swept Bentonville West in the first 6A-West two-game series with 8-2 and 6-5 wins before losing 10-3 and 9-0 to Bentonville.
This week, the Mavericks opened with a 4-3 win at Monday at home over Springdale before losing 5-4 at home on Tuesday.
“Usually early, pitching is ahead of the hitters,” Harpenau said. “We’re still waiting for our offense to catch up and get going. I thought, and still do, think we’ll be a good offensive team this year.”
Blake Mitchell went 6 2/3 innings on Monday, allowing just two earned runs in the win while Ty Jones and Jackson Pruitt each had two hits.
In Arizona, Southside will play three games before returning to 6A-West play at Rogers Heritage on March 27 and at home on March 28 against Heritage.
— Leland Barclay
TRACK AND FIELD
BENTONVILLE Lady Tigers setting up for state
Bentonville girls track coach Randy Ramaker said the mission for his track team during early meets is to get as many athletes to prequalify for the Class 6A state meet.
As a result, several Lady Tigers have done their part during the Springdale Schools Invitational last week, as well as the Tiger Relays, which was moved from Thursday to Tuesday because of the threat of inclement weather. Ramaker counted 18 athletes to qualify at Springdale, while two or three more did it at Bentonville.
“Once we get out of the state indoor meets, which we won, you can relax a little bit because it was a really good offseason,” Ramaker said. “Once we get out of indoor, we turn our attention to prequalifying at state.
“Personally, I like to spread things out over the first couple of meets and let some people run different things and not as many things as they would normally run and see if they can get a good time.”
Two athletes have already turned in some outstanding performances in the early meets. Emilia Thurston has the state’s best performance in the long jump after she went 19 feet, 2 inches at the Springdale Schools Invitational Meet.
Madison Galindo, meanwhile, won the 1,600 meters in a state-best time of 5 minutes, 4.21 seconds at the Tiger Relays and later took the 3,200 in a stunning 10:42.56. That time is more than 20 seconds better than the Class 6A state meet record of 11:04.31 set by Ashley Williams of Mount St. Mary in 2003.
“Those two girls — they’re seniors and they’re going to college,” Ramaker said. “They’re both going to run track, and you can see it in how they work hard and do things right. Good things happen to people who work hard.”
— Henry Apple
GRAVETTE Lady Lions pick up where they left off
Samantha Luther knew she’d have an experienced team with state tournament moxie coming into this season, and her Lady Lions have not disappointed.
Gravette (6-0) is off to a red-hot start that includes a championship at the Rogers Heritage tournament and wins against Lincoln, Harrison and Rogers already on its resume.
“We only lost one senior last year and these girls have really dedicated themselves to being better this season than they were last season,” said Luther, the second-year coach who played for Randy Osnes in Farmington. “We have quite a few girls on the basketball team that came over when their season ended and our girls that were already going have done a really good job of helping them transition into softball mode.”
The strength of the 4A-1 Conference is something Luther is looking forward to, hoping the tough conference games will pay dividends in the postseason. There are several powerful teams in the 4A-1, a league Luther called, “the toughest conference in the state.”
Luther knew what to expect from her returning players, but she said freshman Laney Chilton has had a big impact playing middle infield. Chilton is batting a team-best .500 with six RBIs in the two-hole in the batting order.
— Chip Souza
BENTONVILLE Lady Tigers on the road again for spring break
Bentonville hopped on a chartered bus Wednesday and embarked on a spring break road trip to Mississippi and Alabama.
The Lady Tigers (6-1, 3-0 6A-West), are making their second road swing this season. Bentonville went 3-1 in Louisiana last weekend and are looking to get pushed this weekend, said coach Kent Early.
The team was headed to Biloxi, Miss., then over to Gulf Coast Community College. Bentonville was set to play two games today, the first at 9 a.m. against Germantown, Tenn.
“We haven’t been to Biloxi since 2019, but we got an invite to go there,” said Early. “The head coach there was a GA for my dad (Alvy Early) at Gulf State, so that’s how I got the connection.”
Playing good competition is what the Lady Tigers are hoping for as the program seeks to defend its Class 6A state championship.
“We have a chance to face some really good teams, so we thought why not? Let’s do it,” said Early.
The Lady Tigers are already off to a 3-0 start in the 6A-West after this week’s 9-1 win at home against Fayetteville.
— Chip Souza