It’s a busy baseball week for Lonoke as Chris Foor’s second Jackrabbit squad faces three conference doubleheaders.
Lonoke was 2-2 heading into Tuesday’s scheduled doubleheader with Episcopal Collegiate. The Jackrabbits will play host to Mayflower on Friday and visit Joe T. Robinson on Tuesday, March 13.
“Mayflower returns everybody,” Foor said. “They only had one starter in the field graduate, and they led our conference up until the last doubleheader of the year when we ended up sweeping them.
“Then we turn around and go to Robinson. They had six move-ins this year. They’re going to be tough to beat, plus we have to go to them.”
Lonoke went 1-2 last week in the Benton Panther Invitational. The Jackrabbits lost their opener to the host team, 12-0; beat Little Rock Central, 6-3; and fell to Little Rock Christian, 6-3.
“It’s kind of like our philosophy from last year,” Foor said. “We consider ourselves wanting to be in the elite of (Class) 4A, and to do that, we’ve got to play the elite of the state. We played Benton, which is almost always in the semifinals of (Class) 6A. Little Rock Central has one Division I player and another one being recruited. When we talked to their coach, he thinks they’ve got a chance to win their conference and make some noise in the playoffs.
“Little Rock Christian has three Division I signees — two Hog signees — and we went toe-to-toe with them.”
He said he used a lot of players during the tournament while trying to find the best mix for conference play.
Lonoke beat Carlisle in the season opener two weeks ago, 11-1. The Jackrabbits led 1-0 until a five-run fourth inning, and they added five more runs in the fifth.
Lonoke returns its ace and No. 2 hitter from last year in senior Kade Stuart. Foor said Stuart had started the season on a hot streak, going 1-for-2 with a walk against Carlisle and 6-for-8 in the tournament with four or five RBIs.
Three other seniors are on the roster — right-fielder Connor Linton, who transferred back from Cabot; designated hitter Will Risner and pitcher Bradley Aycock, who in Benton threw 1 2-3 innings of one-run ball.
“We’ve got a lot of players who contributed last year,” Foor said. “They’re taking on that full-time leadership role now, but they’re learning as they go. They’re not fazed because they have been in the heat of battle.”
Examples, he said, include junior Will McNeil, who had thrown one varsity inning before last year’s late-season win over Mayflower. McNeil’s efforts included six shutout innings. He threw four shutout innings against Central last week. Another example is junior Will Roark, who in five complete innings against Carlisle struck out 10 and gave up one unearned run.
“Not much fazes him,” Foor said.
The Jackrabbits’ major team strength, he said, would be depth.
“We’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, and we’ve been through the battle a little bit,” the coach said. “Our weakness is being the one the pressure’s sitting on. In years past, these guys have had two or three people in front of them, but now they’ve got to learn leadership. They’re learning as they go, but they’re doing a good job of it.”
Lonoke finished 21-13 last year after falling in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A State Tournament.