NASHVILLE, Ark.—Nashville's baseball program has developed a mentality of winning in the postseason.
The Scrappers seek their third straight 4A state championship Friday in Fayetteville. Nashville again clashes with Shiloh Christian after beating the Saints for the title the past two seasons.
"You can tell in the look in our kids' eyes, come playoff time we just expect to win," veteran Scrapper coach Kyle Slayton said. "I've always said that one of the biggest pluses to our program is that our kids are a really complete team at the end of the year; everyone kinda knows their roles on the team. We've got 27 guys who combine to be one unit, and that's been the biggest difference the last three years.
"We've played teams that had better players than us, but we've always come out on top. And us being a well-rounded team has been the difference for us."
Nashville (28-6) clashes with Shiloh Christian (24-5) at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Baum Stadium.
The Scrappers beat the Saints, 4-1, in the 2017 title game and 4-0 in last year's final.
"Each team has been unique," Slayton said. "The 2017 bunch was senior-heavy, and a lot of those kids had started for three years. We got on a roll late, and we just kept scoring enough runs to win. Last year we had three solid arms on the mound, and it was by far the best defensive team I've ever had. We knew if we could score a few runs, we weren't ever going to beat ourselves."
The Scrappers return six starters from last season's championship squad, and a number of other players had roles en route to claiming the 2018 title.
"This year, we've played solid baseball all year; I can think of two games where we didn't play very well," Slayton said. "You could really see it in the regional and the two state games, we never quit. It might be back and forth, but we felt like if we kept playing our game, we were going to win. This bunch just has a resilience of not going away; they expect to win."
Nashville is 5-0 in the regional and state tournaments.
"Winning the regional was so crucial, so we got the bye and only had to play two games in the state tournament to reach the final," Slayton said. "We're still a pitcher short of where we need to be; our two sophomore left-handers are going to be very good. Sometimes, they're still sophomores."
Seniors Tristen Jamison, Colton Patterson, Cason Drummond and Jaydon Hostetler, junior Aaron Lott and sophomore Ty Gordon were starters last year. Jamison is expected to pitch the championship game, with Hostetler coming on in relief, if needed.
The rest of the lineup will include sophomores Austin Hanson, Caiden Erwin, Will Pope and either Landon Tollett or junior Ryan Brown.
In the state semifinal, Jamison reached the 110 pitch limit, and Gordon came in to close the book with four outs. Hostetler pitched the state tournament opener for Nashville.
"These last three years have been different types of teams, but they've all had similarities, in ways," the coach added. "They've got that team mentality, and all our kids know is to win in the postseason. In the playoffs, we're 23-1 over the last three years."
Nashville will be seeking to extend that to 24-1 Friday.