Conway pitcher finishes stellar high school career

Conway’s Jordan Wicks delivers a pitch during the Class 7A state-championship game against Springdale Har-Ber at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville last month. Wicks is the 2018 River Valley & Ozark Edition Baseball Player of the Year.

Jordan Wicks’ senior season — indeed, his Conway career — was almost everything he could have imagined.

In 2018, Wicks, a 6-1 left-handed pitcher, led the Wampus Cats to a 21-5 record and a Class 7A state runner-up finish — the third of his career. The Cats’ record during his four-year career was 86-26 (a .767 winning percentage); his freshman, sophomore and senior seasons were a combined 69-17 (.802).

His CHS teammates Jack Stroth and Matt Lloyd said Wicks was the backbone of a team that made it to the championship game three of his four years.

Conway coach Noel Boucher agreed.

“He’s a real good player, but he also had really good leadership qualities, too, and that helped a bunch of our kids,” Boucher said. “That was a plus. The group of seniors we had was determined to keep everybody headed down the right road. Jordan was a big part of that.”

As a senior, Wicks faced 312 batters in 81.1 innings and allowed 47 hits and 17 runs, including 10 earned, for a 0.86 ERA. He struck out 119 and walked 16 in building an 11-1 record with 2 saves.

His only loss was the state-championship game at the University of Arkansas’ Baum Stadium to Springdale Har-Ber.

Wicks’ 30 career wins are the best in program history, following Mike Wiley’s 28 from 1986-89.

Wicks has the lowest career ERA (1.39) in school history, bettering Matt Strickland’s mark from 2014-16, and the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio at 5.6 to 1, bettering Jimmy Clark’s 5.5 to 1 in 1985-86.

Wicks stands second only to Wiley in career strikeouts — 280 to Wiley’s 358.

“Jordan was, in my opinion, the best left-handed pitcher in the state the past two years,” CHS pitching coach Barry Lueders said. “Obviously,

Jordan is one of the top pitchers in program history. He and Mike Wiley dominate our record book. It’s been an honor to have coached both of them, 29 years apart.

“What’s impressive is that Jordan is an even better person than he is a baseball player.”

Wicks is also the River Valley & Ozark Edition Baseball Player of the Year for 2018.

After a season-opening 20-0 win over Rogers Heritage, the Wampus Cats lost three straight — to Bentonville, 7-2; Bentonville West, 5-4; and Class 5A Greenbrier, 8-7.

“As a whole, when I look back, it was really good,” Wicks said. “We started off with a lot of unknowns. We had a lot of senior leadership, but other than that, we were a little unknown.

“We started in Northwest Arkansas going 1-2, then lost at home to Greenbrier, which honestly was a little embarrassing. That game got us going. The culture around the team this year was incredibly different from last year, which was really good. We got together after the Greenbrier game.”

After that loss on March 8, the Cats reeled off 17

consecutive wins and didn’t lose again until their only 7A-Central loss, 10-8 to Little Rock Catholic on May 1.

As the top seed from the Central, Conway drew a first-round bye in the Class 7A State Tournament. The Wampus Cats beat Bentonville, fourth from the West, in the quarterfinals, 9-6; and Rogers, second from the West, in the semifinals, 4-3, before falling to Har-Ber, first from the West, 6-0.

In the championship game, Wicks gave up two runs in the bottom of the first.

“It wasn’t really nerves,” he said. “I just kind of sped up a little on the first at-bat and left the ball over the plate, and they hit it. It was one of those days that everything you threw seemed to find a hole.

“But that’s baseball, and that happens. It sucks, the timing of it, but there’s nothing you can do about it but move on to the next one.”

The worst part, Wicks said, wasn’t a missed shot at a championship ring.

“The worst was losing the last one to play with the guys you’ve played with since you were 5, the last one you played for Coach Boucher, Coach Lueders and Coach [Ryan] Reed,” Wicks said. “At the end of the day, you’re not going to remember the scores. It’s the relationships you’ll remember.”

Boucher called the final game “devastating.”

“We just didn’t get it done,” he said. “They were better than we were on that day. It was really disappointing, but that was pretty much the only disappointment we had all year. We had our re-focus times, like you do with all kids, but for the most part, everybody came to play every day. They were working every day. The games meant something to them.

“It was really fun to come to the park and know that everybody’s on the same page and trying to get things done. Overall, the season was real enjoyable. We’re going to miss those nine seniors, and not just the baseball part. They’re pretty good kids.”

Wicks, who has already reported to Kansas State University in Manhattan and at press time was taking summer classes, agreed there wasn’t much he would change about his high school career.

“I just wanted to be a player who made an impact and helped the team in any way I could,” he said. “The relationships, not only with the players but also with the coaches — everything like that, I wouldn’t change for anything.”

His attention now has shifted to college baseball.

“My goal for next year is really to help this ballclub win any way I can,” he said. “Obviously, I want to be on the field. I want to be out there playing, but if Coach says we need you to fill up water bottles, I’ll do that.

“I just want to win.”