After running through their side of the bracket, Watson Chapel will take on the Sylvan Hills Bears for a 5A state championship. The teams will meet up at 12:30 p.m. on Friday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
The No. 2 Watson Chapel Wildcats have bulldozed their way to Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, where the 5A State Championship game is set to be held. Watson Chapel will take on the No. 2 Sylvan Hills Bears for the right to be crowned 2018 5A state champions.
Meanwhile, the White Hall Bulldogs are out of the tournament after an 8-5 loss to Sylvan Hills. Please see Tuesday's Commercial for details about the Bulldogs' season-ending loss.
The Wildcats came into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder as the runners-up out of the 5A South, and it's been evident in how they've attacked each game.
Watson Chapel Head Coach Chad Cope will now make his third trip to Baum Stadium for a state title game. After winning in the semifinals to advance to the title game, Cope had a request for his guys that goes outside the realms of baseball. It's a great feeling to be headed to Baum, and according to Cope, it's even better when you're going with a great group of kids.
"As far as going to Baum, I told them it's baseball," Cope said. "They earned it and they deserve it. The first thing I told them is to thank God for everything they have and they better hug and kiss their mom and tell them they love them. We have a great group, we really do."
In the first round, the Wildcats took down Farmington 8-1. Wildcats sophomore and Razorbacks baseball commit Markevian Hence pitched a complete game, and that was big for what they were able to do going forward. Hence threw 11 strikeouts while only giving up two hits. Also against Farmington, Watson Chapel senior Andrew Morgan connected for a two-run homer and he was 2/3 at the plate on the day.
Next, the Wildcats got a chance to get revenge against the Little Rock Christian Warriors, who ousted them in the first round of last season's tournament. Watson Chapel took it to LRC, beating them 11-3, and senior Kaleb Hill, an Ole Miss commit, was solid on the mound as he pitched a complete game as well.
Against LRC, Hill threw nine strikeouts while only giving up four hits. Watson Chapel lead-off hitter senior Gionti Turner, a Three Rivers College commit, recorded a solo home run to spark the offense for the Wildcats. For the game, Watson Chapel recorded 13 hits as their bats where red-hot.
With one more hurdle to jump before finishing the race to Baum, the Wildcats took it in stride. Saturday Watson Chapel beat Valley View 12-3 in the final four to advance to the state championship game. With the two top pitchers used up from throwing complete games, Cope went with ole reliable as their starter, senior Jakobi Jackson.
Through the three games, the Wildcats recorded seven home runs, and that just attests to the type of slugging they were doing. Another impressive number for the Wildcats is their 23 stolen bases in a three-game span, and that correlates with their will to win.
"We went with Jackson and he pitched 5 2/3, and he finished with 97 pitches," Cope said. "He had nine strikeouts while only giving up three hits. Senior Tyler Greer came on to close it out and record the final four outs."
Cope spoke on the hitting performance that the Wildcats have displayed in the state tournament, and he said it's something he's seen all year.
"We haven't changed all year, and we've been consistent staying up the middle," Cope said. "We've hit it well all year, and sometimes the pitcher just makes good pitches. We're not chasing a lot of stuff. The guys did their jobs and that's what it was all about."
Cope will look to gain that first state championship.
"This is my third time there," Cope said of the state finals. "I'm 0-2, and both were tough losses. In 5A you have to have a lot of pitching. We were able to use four the whole tournament, and I don't know if others had that luxury. That's one thing that's benefited us. We didn't give up many errors and we stole 23 bases in three games."
After running through their side of the bracket, Watson Chapel will take on the Sylvan Hill Bears for a 5A state championship. The time and date are to be announced.