Friday, May 18, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bison sacrifice walking for title

Leader sportswriter

There was never any doubt where the six seniors on Carlisle’s baseball team would be today.

With graduation taking place at Carlisle High School and the Bison set to take on Woodlawn for the 2A state championship today at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville at 5:30 p.m., it created a conflict for the senior players, including valedictorian Tommy Inman.

Inman, as well as his teammates, did not need a lot of time in making their decision to either walk or play.

“It’s definitely a sacrifice I have to make, but it’s a good one to have to make,” Inman said. “Valedictorian and a state championship game, it doesn’t get much better than that. I always knew if we played to our potential we would be pretty good this year.”

The Bison (29-6) are technically considered the favorites as the No. 1 seed out of the East Region against a Woodlawn team which entered the state tournament as a No. 3 seed out of the South Region. The Bears’ tradition for baseball excellence, however, makes the Bison a bit of an underdog in reality.

That was the same situation a week ago against a Horatio team that had a lot more postseason experience than Carlisle, but the Bison sent them home a round early to the tune of a 13-3 blowout with a dominant performance on the mound for junior Josh Mathis.

Senior Shane Wilson will be the starting pitcher for Carlisle when the Bison take to the field against Woodlawn today for his final high school performance. Wilson said the choice between playing and walking at graduation was a no-brainer.

“A state-championship game is probably every high school player’s dream,” Wilson said. “When the conflict came about, there was no doubt in my mind I would rather play in the state championship game. I think that’s what everybody wants to do; I think that’s probably everybody’s answer to that.”

With family members coming in from around the state and country for graduation, there was no chance of adjusting the schedule for baseball, leaving seniors like catcher Derick Herring with a big choice to make.

“The superintendent came and talked to us seniors,” Herring said. “And, it basically came down to picking one over the other. We decided to play for a state championship, and just get our diplomas there at Baum.”

Herring was also a receiver on the Bison’s state runner up football team, giving him the distinction of playing for both a football and baseball state title his senior year.

“Everybody’s excited,” Her-ring said. “It’s everybody behind us – a small-town community. It feels good to come out here and do what we do. We’ve carried our mentality over from football. It’s got us to where we’re playing for another state championship on Saturday.”

When it comes to Woodlawn, the Bears have also been impressive in their postseason run under coach Tommy Richardson. Carlisle coach B.J. Greene expects to see one of two seniors on the mound for the Bears in either Trey Hankins or Gavin Johnston.

“They’re a good team,” Greene said. “What we’ve done is go out every day and do our same routine. We know they’re going to try and bunt it in some situations, we know they’re going to try to run when they get on. They’ve got a lefty and a righty; I don’t know who he’s going to throw.

“There’s a lot of Arkansas period, 2A through 7A that want to be Woodlawn. Any time you can say you’ve been in the finals five of the past six years, you’ve done something good.”

It will also mark the final game as head Bison for Greene, who will leave Carlisle to take over the baseball program at Heber Springs next season, marking the end of a five-year run over Bison baseball.

“The bottom line is, it’s because of these guys right here,” Greene said. “This was done way before the state-championship game was ever in play. The main reason I’m getting to move up is because of these kids right here. I will always be indebted to these guys.”