NORTH LITTLE ROCK — A walkoff single by senior Jack Stroth sent the Conway Wampus Cats to Fayetteville for a chance at the state title in a heart-racing 7A State semifinal game Saturday at DeJanis Memorial Field.
Stroth’s heroics were set up by a leadoff single by Friday’s junior starting pitcher James Hicks, followed by a single through the right side by senior Parker Gavazzi.
With one strike, Stroth ripped a single, scoring Hicks and ending the game, as the Wampus Cats stormed the field in celebration.
Leading up to the final inning, Conway and Rogers played a low-scoring affair one day after the Wampus Cats beat Bentonville 9-6 to advance to the semis.
Conway’s top starter and Kansas State commit senior Jordan Wicks held the Mountaineers offense hitless through the first five innings until Rogers sophomore Salvador Jacobo doubled to lead off the bottom half of the sixth.
Senior Jeb Sample singled before junior Brandon Husted singled home Jacobo from third.
The Mountaineers would then take a 2-1 lead when sophomore Matthew Watson singled to left field.
Conway regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a two-out walk by Wicks.
Senior Andrew Hreha then singled, pushing Wicks to second.
A throwing error by Husted allowed Wicks and Hreha to advance to third and second, respectively.
Then, senior James Martindale hit a two-run single, giving Conway a 3-2 lead. Sophomore Reed Hughes struck out looking to end the inning.
Because Conway coach Noel Boucher used Wicks like San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy used Madison Bumgarner in the World Series in Friday’s 9-6 win, Wicks had just 13 pitches to retire Rogers hitters in the top of the seventh because of a pitch count.
Mountaineers senior Colin McWorter singled to left field before he was moved over by sophomore JT Watson.
McWorter advanced on a groundout by Jacobo before Sample singled on a bad hop that tied up Conway junior first baseman Cade White.
McWorter scored on Sample’s single, tying the game at three and leaving it up to the Wampus Cat offense where Stroth delivered the heroics.
Conway gained a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after Whit reached on a fielder’s choice.
A throwing error by Rogers sophomore catcher Hayden Seldomridge allowed White to advance to second.
Mountaineers senior starter Mason Griffin balked, allowing White to advance to third. White then scored on a wild pitch.
Wicks wasn’t at his best in the final innings, but he pitched a complete game.
He gave up three runs on six hits and one walk, while striking out seven batters across the 30 batters he faced. He did pick up the win.
Griffin took the loss, giving up three runs, two earned, on five hits, three walks, one hit batsman, one balk and one wild pitch. He struck out four batters.
Conway will face Har-Ber at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville after Har-Ber beat Van Buren in a 6-5 walkoff affair.
The time of the Wampus Cats game has yet to be announced.