BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
A local Bearcats baseball team earned runner-up in a recent tournament. No, these aren’t the high school Bearcats, but rather 9 and 10 year old boys coached by Brian Hensley and Tate Mendoza. This Bearcat team, composed of only three 10 year olds, took their talent north on Highway 71 and competed in the Border Town Bash 2017 in Mansfield.
The young Bearcat baseball team drew the first game at 9 a.m. in three game guarantee bracket against the eventual champs, Fort Smith Warriors. After losing the game, the boys played in the losers bracket, making it the longest route to the championship game. In their first game on that side of the bracket, they faced the Arkansas Extreme Heat from Waldron and beat them to move on and face the Hackett Hornets. The game against the Hornets would prove to be a nail biter, after being down 8-3 early in the game, the Bearcats fought to tie it at 10-10 in the last innings. After moving to extra innings, the Hornets scored three runs, putting the pressure on Mena. The young Bearcats, not bothered at all, put up four runs to win in extra innings, 14-13.
After the thrilling win over Hackett, Mena earned a break before they would turn around and play the Hornets again. After a second close game, the Bearcats won in the final inning by one run, 7-6. On their march to the Championship, the boys would have to get past the Greenwood All-stars in the semifinals. After beating Greenwood in the semi’s, the rematch was set, the Mena Bearcats versus the Fort Smith Warriors in the Championship. When the final out was made, the Warriors were champions of the Border Town Bash, but the young Bearcats fought valiantly and coach Brian Hensley was pleased, “We ended up losing in the final, but the boys played 6 tough games in about 17 hours at the ballpark. We are proud of how they competed.”
The Bearcats are playing in a 9 and 10 year old division, but the majority of the players are only 9, which provides a learning curve. “It’s a big learning curve for these boys as it is the first year for most of them to play kid pitch and under USSSA rules where you can lead off and steal, but they have worked hard and competed all year,” remarks Hensley. Despite the loss in the Championship, the future looks bright for these young players and the Bearcat baseball program. “These boys got better all year long, they hit the ball better than they did all year. They are a great group of kids with a lot of family support. I expect big things for this group of kids,” says Hensley.