Top performers and final recap from the 2024 state baseball championships

The Weekend of Champions is one of the best times of the year and this time Mother Nature allowed us to have one extra day with Valley View defeating Maumelle on Sunday afternoon in front of an overflow crowd.

There were definitely some surprises just like there is every year. After all, that’s why they play the game.

Let’ s start with Taylor, who finally completed the trifecta after two previous attempts to win three straight titles. The Tigers were never really threatened by West Side (Greers Ferry) and won 10-2 before a packed stadium Thursday morning. In a battle of two schools that have never won a state championship, Prairie Grove came back in the bottom of the sixth inning to win 5-2 over Robinson. The Tigers trailed 2-1 going into their half of the sixth inning.

After Robinson starter Logan Eichler walked the first batter, Spencer Watson came in and Prairie Grove reeled off four runs to win the big trophy for the first time in school history. Friday was supposed to be a star-studded affair with the 6A and 5A championship games. Between the four teams in those classes, there are over 20 players committed or signed to play at the next level including seven future Arkansas
Razorbacks. The 6A contest was everything we could hope for between Rogers and defending champion Springdale Har-Ber. After splitting the regular season conference series, the Wildcats got the best of their conference rival 2-0 to win the third title in school history. Luke Cornelison and Gavin Moore combined to throw a no-hitter, the first in a state title game since 2010. The 6A game lived up to the billing, but it was the only game played Friday as lightning delayed the 5A game until Sunday.

On to Saturday for two games that turned out to be the most entertaining of the weekend. Gosnell took
advantage of a sloppy CAC defense to jump out to a 5-0 lead after four innings. CAC starter Caleb Cook didn’t have his best stuff and Gosnell put the ball in play putting pressure on a defense that didn’t have its best day either. CAC had a couple of chances late in the game with the score 6-2. The Mustangs loaded the bases but couldn’t produce any runs. The Pirates won their first title in 34 years and now will move up to Class 4A next cycle. The upset of the weekend was in the 2A championship game as
Ouachita took down powerhouse Woodlawn 2-1 behind a sterling performance from senior pitcher Trey Cox. The Warriors had three highlight catches in the outfield that will be folklore 20 years from now in Donaldson, Arkansas.

Finally, on Sunday we got to see the coronation ceremony come to its expected conclusion as Valley View defeated Maumelle 5-0. Senior Lance Davis was everything you could want out of an ace going six strong innings, only allowing two hits and two walks. Slade Caldwell did not have a hit but reached base three times and scored the first two runs of the game. Valley View scored in five of their six at bats but never could get the knockout punch over a Maumelle team that has a lot of talent itself. Junior Peyton Lee is the real deal and will be one of, if not the best arms in the state.

I called four games for Arkansas PBS with two consummate professionals: Kyle Deckelbaum and JB Brazeal. We even did a three man crew for the 5A Championship Game, which was the first time a three man broadcast crew had ever worked a spring sports final. I want to thank everyone for following our baseball and softball coverage over the last month at Natural State Sports after we transitioned from our previous outlet. We have more content coming to you and look forward to continue to bring you the best coverage in the state.

While there can only be one state tournament MVP from each classification, here are
the players that performed at the highest level when it mattered the most:

Austin Aycock – Taylor

The junior centerfielder went 2 for 3 and earned MVP honors for the Tigers.

Waylon Woodell – Taylor

The senior went five strong innings to earn the win on the mound and also had a couple of

Jessie Umphries – Taylor

Umphries was an RBI machine in the state tournament collecting 11 total, two in the title

Brooks Hipp – West Side

The sophomore has a bright future. Hipps led off the game with a double and added another

Channer Smith – West Side

Did a good job behind the plate and added a couple of hits for the Eagles in his first time
catching in the state tournament.

Tristan Hall – Prairie Grove

Knocked in the go ahead runs on a single in the 6 th inning. Also stole home to extend
the lead to 4-2.

Connor Hubbs – Prairie Grove

The lefty went the distance against Robinson, allowing five hits and one run while
striking out four. Hubbs also scored a run in the sixth inning after a single earlier in the inning.

Logan Eichler – Robinson

The sophomore was lights out for five innings. He held the Tigers to one run scattering a
few hits. The future is bright for this young man.

Luke Cornelison – Har-Ber

Even though he struggled with command, the junior Razorback commit did not allow a
hit and worked out of jams in every inning he pitched. Cornelison was named MVP for the state tournament.

Gavin Moore – Har-Ber

Went 3 1/3 innings to finish the no-hitter. Moore only walked two batters and struck out

Jake Taylor – Rogers

The sophomore tossed a complete game. He allowed 2 runs on 2 hits while walking 3.
He did enough to get the win.

Ross Felder – Har-Ber

Had the first RBI of the game on a single to rightfield. The Arkansas signee was
expected to pitch after earning MVP honors in 2023, but this year he wasn’t needed but
did it with his bat and glove at shortstop.

Trent Middleton – Gosnell

Middleton earned the win on the mound, allowing one hit. Went 3 for 3 at the plate. Game-saving
catch in right field late in the game.

Connor Whitehead – Gosnell

Whitehead had 3 RBI including a big two-out, two run double in the second inning. He also scored
two runs.

Trey Cox – Ouachita

The senior tossed a complete game gem, allowing two hits with six strikeouts, and was named MVP for
the state tournament.

Tyler Abernathy – Ouachita

Abernathy made two acrobatic diving catches off the bat of Garrett Weatherford to change the
course of the game twice.

Judd Smith – Ouachita

Smith knocked in the eventual game winning run in the top of the sixth inning.

Peyton Wells – Woodlawn

The junior pitched well for the Bears through 5 2/3 innings. Had eight strikeouts, allowed five
hits and two walks.

Larson Fowler – Ouachita

Fowler came into the game hitting .135. He had a double and then came around to
score Ouachita’s first run of the game in the top of the third inning.

Lance Davis – Valley View

The future Razorback went six strong innings, allowed two hits and struck out six
batters. Davis was named the MVP for the state tournament.

Slade Caldwell – Valley View

The Ole Miss signee and highly-touted 2024 MLB Draft prospect drew three walks and scored the first two runs of the game for the Blazers. Caldwell also stole his 51st base of the season and 171st of his career, which is a state record in Arkansas.

Noah Ragsdale – Valley View

The sophomore had a triple and a two-run double to lead the Blazers’ offense.

Peyton Lee – Maumelle

The junior Razorback commit looked good in relief of Tag Andrews. He held the potent
Blazers to only two hits in his 3+ innings of work.

(Cover photo by Leslie Caldwell)