For all the good things Baptist Prep had going prior to the season, no one was going to accuse the Lady Eagles of being stealthy.
Baptist Prep had heavy hitters, a talented group of underclassmen and a top-notch pitcher in University of Memphis commitment Macie Welch back from last season. The problem for the Lady Eagles was that everyone else in Class 3A knew what they had returning, too.
"Two years ago, we slipped up on people," Baptist Prep Coach Tim Yelvington said in reference to his team's run to the Class 3A semifinals. "This year we haven't slipped up on anybody. Everybody knows about us before they play us."
Baptist Prep (28-6) won't slip up on Hoxie (24-5) when the teams battle it out for the Class 3A state softball title today at the Benton Athletic Complex, but the Lady Mustangs aren't going to sneak up on the Lady Eagles, either.
Hoxie has been among the best in Class 3A all year and possesses the longest winning streak of any of the four softball teams playing today. The Lady Mustangs have won 20 games in a row since losing 6-3 at Pocahontas on April 5.
"Their hitting is really good," Yelvington said about Hoxie. "Their defense is good, of course, and their pitcher [Ashten Wallace] takes care of business. She's not going to walk people, and she spins it pretty good.
"But it's their hitting and defense that stand out."
It was a well-timed hit in last week's semifinals against Smackover that put Hoxie in its first fast-pitch state final. After getting a pair of hits to start the seventh inning, senior Jaedyn Brown blasted a walk-off, three-run home run to win it 5-2. Wallace also was effective in the game with five strikeouts against five hits.
Baptist Prep played one of the more difficult schedules in its class, going 9-5 against teams in either Class 5A or Class 6A. The Lady Eagles have the added benefit of having a number of standouts such as Welch, who was an Arkansas-Democrat Gazette All-Arkansas Preps performer as a sophomore, and University of North Texas commitment Mackenzie Childers in the lineup. Those two have helped the Lady Eagles outscore teams 58-11 during their eight-game winning streak.
"We didn't score as many runs as we wanted during the state tournament, but we did just enough," Yelvington said. "When you're playing against pretty good teams, you're not going to always score as much as you want. Like I told them, it doesn't matter how you win, just win. But these girls are a really good group."
Yelvington is confident his team will play well and finish off the season in style after coming up short in the semifinals in 2019.
"They've got some confidence right now, too," he said. "They're not overconfident because I'm not going to let them get to that point. But they're confident because we feel like this is where we're supposed to be. We've got to go out there and prove it."