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story.lead_photo.caption Conway baseball head coach Noel Boucher rallies his players before the start of practice Jan. 29 at Conway High School. Boucher and assistant coach Barry Lueders have announced plans to retire following the season. ( Staci Vandagriff)

Noel Boucher will have one final go-round as head coach of the Conway Wampus Cats before stepping down following the 2020 baseball season.

Boucher, the only head coach in the history of the program, will finish after 36 seasons. His top assistant, Barry Lueders, will go out with him following 35 seasons.

And they’d like to go out on top.

Heading into the season, the Wampus Cats’ numbers since 1985 included a 695-264

overall record (.724 winning percentage),

17 conference championships, 29 consecutive state-tournament berths, six state-semifinal appearances, nine state-final appearances, two state championships (1989, 2011) and zero losing seasons.

“It’s been a great ride,” Boucher said.

In 2019, the Wampus Cats lost five 6A-Central games in extra innings en route to a fourth-place league finish.

“We’re hoping to change that outcome,” Boucher said of 2020.

The team’s 2019 season ended in the opening round of the Class 6A State Tournament.

Six starters return in 2020: seniors Reed Hughes, Carson Cahill and Logan Seifert; junior Cameron Leach; and sophomores Logan French and Drew Freyaldenhoven.

Hughes is the leading returning hitter. Boucher said he and Cahill were the team’s best power hitters. French has developed into a good outfielder, and Leach and junior Sam Stroth provide the team’s best speed. Senior Wes Sutton, who is headed to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and junior Ben Weese have the best arms, the coach said.

Boucher said several players will hit the mound this season, including Sutton, Weese, juniors Ryan Huselton and Collin Cunningham, and sophomore Austin Rainey.

Work ethic is the team strength, the coach said, but the Wampus Cats will be inexperienced at some positions.

On the cusp of his final season, Boucher has one goal for his team: “Have fun.”

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