2024 Arkansas high school baseball state finals preview

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0885.jpg


The bittersweet time of year has arrived as the 2024 season will wrap up at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway for the Weekend of Champions from Thursday through Saturday.

Each team has earned the right to play on this stage and will get the opportunity to play for the ultimate prize before a statewide audience.

If you are not able to make it to the game, you can catch all of the action on Arkansas PBS. Also, be sure to tune into the week’s episode of ‘Arkansas Preps Weekly’ wherever you listen to podcasts – YouTube, Apple, Spotify and many more – for additional in-depth analysis.


When: Friday 1 p.m.

Teams: Springdale Har-Ber (29-5) vs. Rogers (27-3)


Head Coach: Dustin Helmkamp 

The Wildcats are looking to make it back-to-back state championships with an experienced roster that knows how to win. Har-Ber is the only team to beat Rogers in conference play the last two seasons, splitting the doubleheader each season. There are similarities in this season’s Wildcats to last year’s. Both teams enjoyed double digit winning streaks. In fact, the 2024 team has had two separate 13 game winning streaks, including the current streak leading up to the championship game. Har-Ber last lost on
April 9 to Fayetteville. Ross Felder started the season with a nagging injury but has come back strong.

In his first complete game appearance, he tossed a no-hitter on March 16th . Luke Cornelison has emerged as a solid option on the mound as well. Senior Braden Sprague is a Swiss army knife: He catches, can play first base like he did in last year’s title game, or outfield, which he will in this year’s contest.


Ross Felder: .321 avg./ 16 RBI. 9-1 record 1.17 ERA/ 75 K-26 BB

Braden Sprague: .344 avg./ 12 2B/ 22 RBI

Caleb Smith: .392 avg./ 12 2B/ 25 RBI

Luke Cornelison: 4 HR/ 25 RBI. 8-1 record 1.44 ERA/87K-36 BB/53.2 IP


Head Coach: Matt Melson

The Mounties have won five consecutive 6A-West championships dating back to 2019. Current Little Rock Trojans ace Jackson Wells led them to their first state championship in 2021. They were No. 1 in the Super 7 rankings for most of last season before losing to Bentonville in the state tournament. They lost six seniors to graduation and still had the best team in 6A for the regular season. Coach Matt Melson has built a winning machine and while the faces may change, the results do not. Their only in-state losses this season are to Springdale Har-Ber and Valley View.

The dynamic duo of Ty Anderson and Jake Taylor baffled lineups once again this season. Taylor, a sophomore, was All-State last year and pitched his best game of the season in the Mounties’ 8-1 win over Bryant in the semifinals last week in Bentonville. Of the six championship games this week, Rogers and Har-Ber know each other the best. It has become a good rivalry in the state’s largest classification. There will not be too many surprises when these two teams take the field on Friday in Conway.


Ty Anderson Senior LHP

Jake Taylor Soph. LHP

Caleb Champion Senior CF

Jacob Watson Soph. 2B

Zach Lawing Junior SS


When: Friday 7 p.m.

Teams: Valley View (30-2) vs. Maumelle (19-11)


Head Coach: Josh Allison

Valley View has been here before. In fact, this is their fourth consecutive trip to the state championship game. They won the 4A trophy in 2021, lost the 4A title to Harrison in 2022 and lost the 5A title to Little Rock Christian last season. They have been ranked the No. 1 team in the state since the pre-season, are undefeated against in-state competition.

The Blazers’ only losses in 2024 are to Magnolia Heights (Miss.) and Collierville (Tenn.). With one more win, this squad will be talked about for years to come as one of the greatest high school teams in the last 25 years. Since August, Coach Josh Allison has preached to his guys, “one day at a time.” They opened the season at the Southwest Sporting Goods Classic with wins over Lonoke (4-2) and Maumelle (2-1).


Slade Caldwell: .486 avg./ .706 OBP/ 56 RS/ 46 BB-9K / 50 SB

Hudson Hosman: .425 avg./ 10 HR/ 45 RBI
Owen Roach: .330 avg./ 9 2B/ 33 RBI/ 23 SB

Lance Davis: 9-0 record/ 69K-8 BB/ 0.17 ERA

Eli Crecelius: 10-0 record/ 89K-20 BB/ 0.49 ERA


Head Coach: Chris Foor

Coach Foor knew last year his team had a chance to compete at a prominent level, possibly even compete for a state championship. After finishing runner-up to Little Rock Christian in the 5A-Central, the Hornets made the semi-finals for the first time in school history.

Fast Forward to 2024 and the expectations were as high as they have ever been. With multiple SEC commits and numerous other contributors back, 2024 was the year for the Hornets to make a run. They suffered some setbacks during the season, including a doubleheader sweep at the hands of LR Christian that slated the Hornets at the No. 3 seed. Their bats came alive in the state tournament with unexpected power surges from unlikely candidates like middle infielder Alan Timmons, who homered against Greenbrier in the quarterfinals. Tag Andrews did not play an inning in the state tournament in Harrison due to concussion protocol. Having him back for the championship game is crucial to the Hornets being at full strength.


Tag Andrews: 43.1 IP/ 0.65 ERA/ 77 K/ .420 avg./ 18 RBI

Peyton Lee: 43.2 IP/ 1.44 ERA/ 78 K/ .435 avg./ 2 HR/ 30 RBI

Blaize Ward: 31.2 IP/ 1.55 ERA/ 32 K/ .401 avg./ 4 HR/ 32 RBI

Nick White: .320 avg./ 3 3B/ 23 RBI


When: Thursday 4 p.m.

Teams: Prairie Grove (20-9-1) vs. Joe T. Robinson (23-11)


Head Coach: Mitch Cameron

The Tigers are back in the state championship for the first time since 2011. The 4A-1 has always produced exceptionally good baseball teams and sent two teams to the semifinals this season. Prairie Grove defeated Farmington 4-2 to get to the championship game. Tristan Hall delivered the game-clinching two-run single.

The Tigers knew they had a chance to compete for a state title after beating Morrilton 6-3 in the finals of the 4A-North regional tournament. No moment has been too big for this Tigers team and that goes back to preparation in practice. They constantly work on situational hitting and defense so when the time comes, nothing is a surprise. Whatever happens against Robinson in the championship game, chances are it has been rehearsed a few times this season.


Bryce Ledgerwood: .359 avg./ 7 2B/ 19 RBI

Conner Hubbs: .424 avg./ 11 2B/ 4 HR/ 28 RBI. 66.2 IP/ 9-3 record/ 92 K/ 1.99 ERA

Asher Linn: .354 avg./ 24 RBI

Tristan Hall: .306 avg./ 22 RBI/ 8 2B


Head Coach: Isaac Dulaney

The Senators were supposed to be a year or two away from the 4A championship game. The problem is no one told this scrappy group of dirtbags. Robinson had aspirations of a state championship in 2019 and 2020, a team with three Division One signees, plus others who would go on to play in college. In 2019, Morrilton knocked them out of the state tournament, and everyone remembers how 2020 went.

The last three years have been a process for coach Isaac Dulaney. Robinson has one of the best setups in 4A baseball, having hosted regional tournaments the last two seasons. Over thirty teams have come to central Arkansas for the Robinson Invitational in the last two seasons. Dulaney wanted to make Robinson baseball a household brand and now they get to compete for their first state championship in school history. In fact, it had been 57 years since the Senators made the semifinal round of the state tournament. Lonoke was the prohibitive favorite coming into the season with a veteran group of seniors that had won the state title last year and won the regional tournament for a third time this season. Robinson beat Lonoke twice this year, the second time when it mattered the most in the semifinals. Spencer Watson held the Jackrabbits scoreless for 6.2 innings, allowing only two hits in the 3-2 win. They have come this far, why not go ahead, and win it all?


Logan Eichler: 8-1 record/ 61 K-20 BB/ 1.19 ERA

Brooks Walker: 8-1 record/ 51 IP/ 61 K-29 BB/ 1.78 ERA

Victor Bullock: .365 avg./ 6 2B/ 23 RBI

Carson Waugh: .337 avg./ 30 RBI/ 22 RS

Spencer Watson: 48.1 IP/ .179 BAA/ 1.88 ERA


When: Saturday 10 a.m.

Teams: Central Arkansas Christian (18-5) vs. Gosnell (25-8)


Head Coach: Hayden Cruce

The Mustangs’ athletic department has had a good run this school year. Football made the quarterfinals and won their conference for the first time since 2015. The boys’ basketball team won a 3A state championship under Matt Hall, while both boys and girls soccer are also playing in the Weekend of Champions. The baseball team has a chance to win a state championship for the first time since 2009 after reaching the semifinals last season.

Athletic Director Hayden Cruce was forced to step in as the interim after the previous head coach decided in December to pursue opportunities outside of coaching. Cruce was the head baseball coach of the Mustangs from 2015-17.

The Mustangs were 37-15 overall and 20-2 during Cruce’s tenure as the head coach. Cruce knew he had an exceptional group this season that could contend for a state championship, so he assumed the reigns and the rest is history. CAC won the 3A-5 conference for a second straight season, going undefeated in the process. They also finished runner-up in the regional tournament to Harding Academy for the second
straight season.

The only difference this season is the Mustangs are in the title game, while the Wildcats were eliminated by the Mustangs’ opponent, Gosnell. Grayson Wilson has the chance to leave CAC as one of the most decorated student athletes in history. The Arkansas football commit will enroll in college next January so this will be his last baseball game in a Mustangs baseball uniform. Wilson’s competitive fire was on display in a 3-1 win over Genoa Central in the quarterfinals last week in Hot Springs. Wilson pitched six strong innings, striking out ten, while sick with a virus that kept him out of the semifinal win over Harmony Grove (Ouachita County).


Webb Watson: .475 avg./ 7 2B/ 5 3B/ 18 RBI

Harrison Richmond: .418 avg./ 9 2B/ 23 RBI

Jack Bingenheimer: .393 avg./ Big hits in state tournament.

Lane Bourne: .354 avg./ 13 RBI/ 27 RS

Caleb Cook: 9-0 record/ 68 K-8 BB/ 0.78 ERA


Head Coach: Aaron Coots

The Pirates last made the state championship game in 1990. They won their only title in school history that season, so the 34-year drought could end on Saturday. Gosnell is the second straight 3A-3 team to make the finals after Rivercrest accomplished the feat in 2023. Gosnell shocked the state when they defeated Harding Academy in the quarterfinals 9-6. In a season of ups and downs, Coach Aaron Coots believes his team is getting hot at the right time.

Gosnell opened its season winning 11 of their 12 contests. The Pirates finished second to class 4A Southside (Batesville) in the Baptist Prep Spring Break Tournament and also handed Woodlawn their only defeat of the year. That tournament was followed up with a 7-1 win over Rivercrest and 7-0 win over Brookland. This is the last season in class 3A for the near future and going out as state champions would be the ideal send-off up to class 4A.


Trent Middleton: .449 avg./ 12 2B/ 3 3B/ 3 HR/ 36 RBI. 71.1 IP/ 8-3 record/ 115 K/ 1.57

Chad Stewart: .358 avg./ 7 2B/ 28 RBI

Kason Newsom: .345 avg./ 5 2B/ 29 RBI

Chase Perkins: .309 avg./ 9 2B/ 33 RBI.


When: Saturday 4 p.m.

Teams: Woodlawn (34-1) vs. Ouachita (20-11)


Head Coach: Tommy Richardson

Woodlawn is the most successful baseball program in Arkansas over the 21st century. The Bears have won nine state championships, all since 2008. They have been in the state championship game 13 times, including the last eight. They have won nine state championships, including six of the last seven (2019).

How does a small school between Rison and Star City win this often? The answer is simple, Tommy Richardson.

While he doesn’t say much, Richardson’s words are never ignored. He has churned out numerous collegiate baseball players, but his goal is to make sure his players are successful beyond baseball. He was asked last year what the secret sauce was to his team’s success.

“We are just trying to figure out how to win the next one,” Richardson said.

The Bears have always been known for stout pitching and defense. That was on display in the quarterfinal 1-0 win over Riverside. Peyton Wells went 6 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits. While the Bears did make two errors and allowed six walks, they capitalized on their opportunities when it mattered most. Junior Tate Hall tripled to lead at the bottom of the sixth inning, then stole home for the only run of the game. Hall leads the Bears with 49 RBI this season. He is also 8-0 on the mound with a 2.37 earned run average. If Woodlawn is going to win its 10th state championship this century, it will not be flashy, but you can bet it will be a clinic on how to play high school baseball.


Brayden Jones: .488 avg./ 11 2B/ 6 HR 35 RBI

Peyton Wells: .423 avg./ 13 2B/ 30 RBI/ 8-1 record/ 48.1 IP/ 72 K/ 23 BB

Tate Hall: .404 avg./ 15 2B/ 4 3B/ 49 RBI. 56.2 IP/ 8-0 record/ 63 K/ 20 BB

Dillon Lunsford: .316 avg./ 5 2B/ 6 3B/ 30 RBI


Head Coach: Hayden Thornton

The Warriors are only two years removed from competing at the Class 1A level. Being in south Arkansas, they knew when they moved up, it was not going to get any easier. They finished runner-up to Woodlawn in the 2A-8 conference this season, losing 7-3 and 9-6 to the Bears. While the Warriors do not have the tradition of Woodlawn, they have championship game experience, making the finals five times and winning twice (2000 and 2015). Coach Hayden Thornton has a lot of respect for coach Tommy

“Sure, he has been successful, but I watch him a lot, there’s so much you can learn from just watching him,” Thornton said.

Thornton describes his team as scrappy with good gloves at every position. Ouachita does not hit a lot of home runs even though they play at a park with a left field distance of 270 feet.

“We have guys that could be long ball hitters, but they just go up there and do their jobs and not worry about it,” added Thornton.


Judd Smith: .329 avg. leads team. Second best pitcher on the staff.

Trey Cox: .286 avg/ 22 RBI. Will start on the mound for Ouachita.

Jayden Alston: .404 avg./ 22 RBI. Leading hitter and tied for team lead in RBI.


When: Thursday 10 a.m.

Teams: Taylor (22-4) vs. West Side Greers Ferry (27-3)


Head Coach: Brian Fowler

The Tigers have had two other chances to three peat in their school history. They won back-to-back titles in 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. The Tigers have dominated 1A competition the last three seasons. They won their three state tournament games by a combined score of 41-8 this season.

Taylor’s toughest competition on the top half of the bracket was supposed to be St. Joseph (Conway) with Bulldogs’ ace Nicholas French on the mound. Taylor used its plate discipline to run French’s pitch count and forced the lefty off the mound by the fourth inning. Taylor ended up winning the game 10-0, like last year’s 11-1 semifinal win over the Bulldogs. Mason Lindsey and Waylon Woodell had big performances in last year’s championship game against Mount Ida and have been consistent at the plate all year.


Waylon Woodell: .526 avg./ 11 2B/ 5 3B/ 3 HR/ 43 RBI

Jessie Umphries: .365 avg./ 10 2B/ 3 HR/ 44 RBI

Mason Lindsey: .366 avg./ 22 RBI/ 29 RS/ 27 BB/ 11 K

Kaleb Downs: .371 avg./ 31 RS/ 8-0 record/ 60 K/ 26 BB/ 0.72 ERA


Head Coach: Shane Davis

The Eagles have been one of the top programs in class 1A baseball not named Taylor the last three seasons under Shane Davis. They have been ranked in the top 3 of the Super 7 rankings each season, only to faulter in the state tournament. However, West Side did reach the semifinals in 2019 and 2021.

West Side has a combined record of 89-24 over the last four seasons. Senior Jacob Carlton has been the bell cow for the Eagles this season, currently owning a 10-1 record over 64 innings with a 1.19 earned run average. He has done damage at the plate, leading the Eagles with a .529 average and 24 extra base hits. This is a team that likes to run. Sophomores Brooks Hipp and Keegan Towell have stolen 72 bases combined this season. This is only the second time West Side has ever played for a state championship, the other in 2010.


Jacob Carlton: .529 avg./ 44 R/ 43 RBI/ 24 XBH. 10-1 record/ 1.19 ERA/ 131 K/ 64.2 IP

Brooks Hipp: .434 avg./ 44 SB/ 45 RS/ 9 2B/ 8 3B

Keegan Towell: .378 avg./ 32 RS/ 33 RBI / 28 SB. 7-1 record. 3.44 ERA/ 3 no-hitters

(Cover photo by Leslie Caldwell)