With the end of the girls track and field heptathlon in May, the last sporting event for the 2017-2018 school term was in the books.
The heralded boys graduating classes of 2017 and 2018 are now history. With two teams playing in state championship games in football and basketball, with the track team taking third places twice in state meets, and with the baseball teams always ranked among the state's best, the past couple of years of grads left a very big legacy behind.
I had a fan ask me what I thought, as a sports writer, was going to happen next. I told him that the folks that ranked high school sports would probably rank the Blackhawk boys downward going into the 2018-2019 seasons. Me personally? I would not be so fast to write off the boys' chances this fall and winter.
The football program is in the best shape that it has ever been, though we will be without a returning all-state running back for the first time in a while. However, the talent is there and the staff is there to bring it out.
On the basketball side, the boys return a solid crew and with a year under their belts, they will be better. The most recent edition had the least amount of returning experience but they were still state contenders. Their conference assignment will be tougher with the new 4A-1 alignment. With the 16 smaller 5A schools from 2017-2018 being moved down into the state 4A for the upcoming season, playoffs may be tougher.
Now -- about the girls.
Just when the Blackhawk competition thought they were going to see the end of the Winn factor, along comes freshman Blakelee Winn who made a big splash this year in every sport she competed.
Winn is part of a big group of talented Lady 'Hawks who will be making more waves this year in lots of venues. The sophomore and freshmen were sensational this year in sparking the track and field 'Hawks to lopsided victories at the 4A state indoor and outdoor meets. With some good eighth-graders moving up, the Blackhawks may well dominate 4A track and field for a while across the state.
It could well be that the girls taking the field in whatever sport this year will start setting standards that may rival what the boys have accomplished recently.
At any rate, the Blackhawk mantra of "Good to Great" will be something that will be be a matter of course for the foreseeable future.
Razorbacks to world series?
Though they have been in the College World Series before, Arkansas's Razorbacks have never won the College World Series.
In the past, the CWS required teams to have a lot of pitchers available in an eight-team, double-elimination tournament. The times the Hogs have been in the World Series mix, they ran out of pitching.
Since those days, the new CWS is like playing a Regional and Super Regional all over again.
The NCAA tournament seeds their first round into 16 regionals, with their top 16 teams being the hosts. Arkansas drew a No. 5 seed, which is also a national seed.
A national seed is being seeded in the top eight, which means you get to play at home all the way to the World Series if you can keep winning.
Arkansas was playing Dallas Baptist Sunday night hoping to claim a region title. If they lost, they would play the Baptists again on Monday as DBU had a 2-1 mark headed into Sunday's game with the 2-0 Hogs. It's a double elimination tourney.
Should they have won, they will be playing likely South Carolina at home for a best two of three set with the winner getting their tickets punched for the World Series. South Carolina was playing East Carolina for a eastern U.S. region championship late Sunday.
Arkansas has had an outstanding record at home this year, winning 31 games against just four defeats. Ironically, they have not fared so well on the road, compiling a 6-12 mark as the visiting team. However, they do have a 4-2 on neutral fields, which is what the College World Series will be.
There are two brackets set up for the World Series, with the Hogs seed placing them into the second bracket.
Brackets will be composed of the winners from four super-regionals. If Arkansas made it past Dallas Baptist, and they win their own super-regional, they would be one of the four in Bracket 2. At the time of this writing, the other three likely super regional pairings are Mississippi/Texas, Minnesota/LSU and Oklahoma State/North Carolina with those winners filling out the Razorbacks bracket if they get there.
Ten SEC schools made it into the NCAA playoffs with Arkansas and South Carolina being joined by Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Auburn, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Sunday night, nine of the 10 teams of the SEC were still in it for a region championship with only Texas A&M getting eliminated.
The Hogs have two great starters in Blaine Knight and Kacey Murphy who were lights out in the two lopsided victories Arkansas had in the first two games. Arkansas beat Southern Mississippi and Oral Roberts by identical 10-2 counts.
However, the Razorbacks have not been able to come up with a reliable third starter. Sunday's starter allowed the first three batters from Dallas Baptist to reach base, so he was relieved which meant that the bull pen had to cover the entire game. Luckily, Knight and Murphy went deep into their innings, saving the bull pen for Sunday.
The College World Series is always held in Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. Local fans could make the trip north up I-49 to call the Hogs.
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. He can be contacted through The Times at email@example.com.Sports on 06/06/2018
Print Headline: It's a whole new year