McCollum's Column: Tournament reflections from the comforting to the crazy

A few reflections on the flurry of tournaments last week:



The timing might have been slightly off as far as immediate salve.

But it’s another reflection on the healing and spirit of two communities that two groups of Eagles — one from Vilonia and one from Mayflower — won state high school championships (Vilonia in 5A softball; Mayflower in 3A baseball).

Both communities endured unbelievable suffering from tornadoes of a year ago. Both have pulled themselves up with their sense of community and inner fortitude.

And their athletic teams kept competing and both have had outstanding years this year. Mayflower played in the state championship games in both basketball and baseball.

The two Faulkner county communities are forever linked, not from tragedy but their response to it.

Winning a high school state championship dues not take away the hurt or the suffering or heal all wounds.

But it’s nicely soothing and gives a group of folks, who have had their share of suffering, something tangible to celebrate.



Conway was given up by many as dead when Bentonville had a 6-1 lead in the fifth in the state 7A championship game.

The game ended with the Tigers hanging on with the Cats trailing 6-5 with runners at first and third with two outs in the seventh.

Those who have been around the Conway program for years under coaches Noel Boucher and Barry Lueders know the Wampus Cat players know how to roll with the punches and keep competing. The Cats know how to make things close and win their share of close games.

And I believe the fact that Bentonville coach Todd Abbott stayed with his ace, Kasey Ford, when he was fading after 130 pitches was not only faith in his player’s grit, but I’m not sure he thought he had another pitcher who could get the hard-charging Cats out in the final innings.



There was plenty of evidence during the regular season but the wild and crazy developments in the Southland Conference baseball tournament made have provided proof that there was no more balanced league in the country.

I’ve never seen anything like how the lower-seeds kept upsetting the applecart.

I don’t remember a tourney in which the top four seeds (in this case Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, Nicholls and McNeese State) were the first four teams eliminated, leaving the title to be decided by 5-8 (UCA, Sam Houston, Houston Baptist and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi).

And it was by the narrowest of margins that the No. 7 seed (Houston Baptist) didn’t play the No. 8 seed (TAMCC) for the championship.

Any of the eight teams could have won it.

Those games were decided by all the little things: a key hit, a lucky bounce, a great pitching effort, a defensive play or all types of breaks.

We’ve learned long ago that in SLC baseball, expect the unexpected and things can get wild.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd)


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