Arkadelphia Badgers: Badgers want to continue winning ways

By Wayne Bryan Published March 17, 2013 at 6:00 a.m.
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Arkadelphia looks to continue their success after a 21-7 season and a trip to the state Class 5A playoffs in 2012.

It all looks great on paper. After a 21-7 season and a trip to the state Class 5A playoffs, the Arkadelphia Badgers were placed in the 4A this season. But coach Brant Matros said the reassignments also include some tough opponents and old rivals.

“[Central Arkansas Christian] moved with us, and we will be facing Malvern and Bauxite again,” Matros said. “They are all good programs.”

While fan expectations might be high, the coach said the team lost “a great senior class.”

However, even as there are only four seniors on the team, he said, the Badgers are packed with good juniors, and they still know how to win on the diamond.

All Badger pitchers are working on the changeup.

With an extra tournament conference in 4A, coach Matros said it will be important for the team to peak at the right time. He said he will know how things are going early when the team plays a nonconference schedule that includes games with Bryant, White Hall and Benton, one after another.

“But playing quality teams will make you better,” he said. “We need leadership, and I am looking for someone to step up and get us going.”

Best hitter for average: “I would like for that to be the leadoff hitter, Jakahari Howell,” Matros said. “We hope to see him on base a lot and have a high average and get things started for us.”

Now a junior, Howell played in the outfield as a freshman and has been a starter for two years.

“He has just got a another gear when he is in the game,” Matros said. “He is not the best athlete but loves and knows the game and plays with a great heart.”

Best power hitter: Catcher Austin White, another junior, had five home runs last year with the new bats that severely restrict the long ball.

“The homer might be a lost part of the equation now,” the coach said. “But Austin has shown he can hit the ball in the gap well.”

The coach said White will be hitting in the third or fourth slots, so he can drive in runs.

Best speed: Along with Howell, Matros said Kris Oliver, a junior, may be the quickest members of the team.

“He is probably the best athlete on the team,” the coach said of Oliver.

Oliver will play in the outfield and at second base and will be placed in the eighth or ninth spots in the batting order in hopes that he will be on base when the top of the order comes up.

Best arm: Another junior, John Franklin Matros, a right-handed pitcher, stepped up late last year, and more is expected from him in 2013.

“He was our best pitcher late in the season,” coach Matros said. “He won a key game at the end that got us into the playoffs.”

The coach said his son’s fastball and curve have both velocity and control.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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