Conway prepped to near perfection.
The Wampus Cats, looking more preppy than usual in their white jerseys lettered CHS — Conway High School — honed their skills for conference tests later this week with an 11-1 victory over Vilonia on Tuesday.
Conway (12-7, 5-3 in the 7A-Central) batted just four times in a win shortened to five innings by the run-rule.
"This was a typical mid-week game," Conway coach Noel Boucher said. "We were the same as them, in between conference games. (Being without a game Tuesday) would’ve put us an entire week without games. I wasn’t comfortable with that."
The Faulkner County rivals play every year, and this time the tone was subdued by more important conference games Thursday and Friday.
"Our goal is to make sure when this shakes out, we’re in a position to get a bye in the state tournament (by finishing in the conference’s top two)," Boucher said. "Nobody has won a state tournament without getting a bye since they went to that format, so getting in the top two spots is pretty important."
Conway used two pitchers, Hayden Strickland and Connor Williams, reserving Connor Prout, Alex Smith, and Spencer Jerome for Thursday and Friday. Strickland allowed one hit over three innings for the win.
Vilonia used three pitchers — Trey Lewis, Kelby Moser and Sam Woody. Only Woody was successful with a clean fourth inning highlighted by a double play. Lewis took the loss. Smith was scheduled to pitch for Conway before the 10-run-rule preempted him.
"Without a game, you looking at an extended bullpen where concentration is good but not game-like," Boucher said. "This was better than practice. We’ll finish up Alex Smith tomorrow."
Vilonia never seemed ready to contend as Strickland took the Eagles down in order to start the game. Conway began strong defensively when first baseman Reid Blaylock grabbed a pop foul ball for the game’s first out.
Conway batted around and opened up a 9-0 lead in the second inning.
Cody Russell and Cody Rhodes singled and advanced on Ricky Puloma’s sacrifice. Blaylock roped a double to right, driving in a 2-0 Conway edge. Blaylock arrived on an error before Colin Fluesmeier ripped a double down the line to put the Wampus Cats ahead 5-0.
After Russell walked in his second at-bat in the inning, Rhodes cleared the loaded bases with a high line drive over the centerfielder Bryan Ayers’ head.
"Our five and six hitters (Russell and Rhodes) are doing a good job driving the ball in," Boucher said. "Russell’s a dead pull hitter. He’s a good RBI guy. Rhodes has his power to the opposite alley."
Williams struck out three, but Vilonia got one run in the fourth on Ayers’ RBI single.
Conway went ahead 11-1 in the fourth on Fluesmeier’s one-run single and Russell’s one-run double.