BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Conway has been one of the top high school baseball programs in state of Arkansas with three state titles over the years, but had gone 11 years without a championship until last season.
That streak ended when the Wampus Cats downed Bentonville 10-7 in the title and now is searching for back-to-back crowns.
Conway (20-5, 10-1) has won 19 of its last 21 contests, splitting a doubleheader last Friday with co-leader Cabot and then downing Jonesboro 4-1 on Monday.
“Our shortstop got hurt (Friday) and they (the Panthers) got six infield hits in the first game against us,” Hardin said. “So we dropped one for the first time since spring break. But we bounced back and got the other one.”
Hardin feels blessed to have his current group.
“I have a good group of kids,” Hardin said. “They work hard and work well together and are really well connect in as far as what we do. We kind of have that one heartbeat and have done well together.”
Conway return a half-dozen starters from last season’s championship squad and also added a pair of 2021 starters back into the fold.
“We had six guys coming back hit started last year,” Hardin said. “And we have also have two guys who started as sophomores – Clay Fisher and Tyler Spencer – that were injured and unable to play last year.
“So we had a good group of guys coming back from last year that kind of know what the drill is and how to get there, staying the course and trying to get there again this year.”
Hardin’s 2023 squad seemingly has a different mentality this season form last year’s 20-9 club.
“It is kind of a laid back group, which is different from last year,” Hardin said. “Last year we had a group that was high energy.
“We are not as good defensively, but have a better offense. The kids love each other, want to play well, they are cheering on each other and the teamwork and camaraderie has led to a lot of their success.”
The offense is led by the top three hitters in Shaun Cover, Preston Prock and Tucker Sattlefield.
“We have a freshman Shaun Cover, who is one of the newcomers this year and is leading off and hitting about .450 for us,” Hardin said. “Preston Prock is a senior and is about the same, hitting around .450 and has five or six home runs.
“Tucker Satterfield has started for us since he was a freshman and is a junior now. He hits in three hole for us so those three kind of make us go offensively.”
The Wampus Cats have a trio of front-line pitchers in Hugh Hill (6-4, 230) and Prock – who have both thrown a no-hitter each this season – and the uniquely named Prestyn Ribbing.
“On the mound we have Hugh Hill and he has started for us for three years while Preston Prock has thrown for us for three years also,” Hard said. “Then Prestyn Ribbing is a newcomer on the mound and we go with those guys every conference game in some form or fashion. We play match ups and they all get work each day.
“Again it’s the teamwork and the camaraderie and those guys are fine with their roles. There is not just one guy we give the ball to and say go win. They all work well together.”
After the twinkle split last Friday, Conway and Cabot are tied for the conference lead with one loss each.
The Wampus Cats have a contest with Little Rock Central on Friday and then a pair of games with Little Rock Catholic and Bryant next week.
“So we still have a long road to go here,” Hardin said. “Only two weeks left in the season so it is coming up quick, but there is still a lot left to play for.”
Photo courtesy of Conway Athletics