LONOKE, Ark. — Lonoke has sat atop the 4A all season long— and now, the road to a state title literally runs down Highway 70.
“It’s been a goal of ours to win a state championship, and what better way to do it than at our place,” said head coach Bryan Eagle.
Tournament action will begin on Thursday at Lonoke Municipal Ballpark, but the Jackrabbits have a bye until Friday. The coach said the fans will be ready.
“We’re dismissing school on Friday, so we should have a ton of people here, we’re very excited about hosting. I fully expect this place to be covered wall to wall,” he described.
Senior Drake Aycock knows that feeling of excitement well.
“It’s always good to see, the community supports us really well,” he said.
Junior Cutter Colvert thinks it will provide some extra motivation.
“They have no classes, they’re all going to be here supporting us, kind of just wanting to make the hometown proud,” Colvert added.
The Jackrabbits won their second straight 4A-East Regional title last weekend, and are perfect in conference play this season.
It all starts on the mound with Arkansas commit Steele Eaves.
“I’m as locked in as I’m gonna get,” says Eaves. “Every time I get off school, I go to practice, come home… only thing on my mind is baseball.”
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the state, regardless of classification,” explained Coach Eagle. “Any time he’s on the mound we feel good about it.”
And that confidence extends to the rest of the staff as well.
“Anybody who gets the ball on this pitching staff has done a quality job for us,” said Eagle.
Colvert agreed and added, “Every time we step on the field we know our pitching staff is gonna do good and we have something to stand behind.”
This will be the third straight state tourney appearance for a senior class whose high school careers started with the COVID-canceled 2020 season.
“I grew up with them guys, known them forever,” said Eaves. “It would mean the world to me to have a state championship when they leave.”
It’s starting to set in for the seniors, Aycock admitted.
“Not gonna get a lot of experiences like this, so enjoy it while you can,” he said.
Coach Eagle has been through it all, taking over the program when the seniors were freshmen.
“Lot of ups and downs and heartaches, but also a lot of great moments. We want to close this thing out together. We want to go get this ultimate goal, a state title, and do it together. That dog pile at the end is what we’re trying to do," he said.