Standout seniors Carden, Turner lead Cobras
FOUNTAIN LAKE — As three-year starters for Fountain Lake’s baseball team, Montana Carden and Stephen Turner have experienced just about everything on the diamond, but both have taken on a new challenge this season.
Being the only two seniors on a team that includes 13 underclassmen, Carden and Turner have added a leadership role to their list of responsibilities on the field.
“We kind of had to grow into a little bit more of a leadership role,” Carden said. “I know our sophomore year, we only had two or three seniors on the team and at the time that was their spot. When you just have two or three seniors on the team, those certain few kind of have to step up.”
Carden credited seniors from last year’s team for showing him the ropes and what it takes to guide the younger players on the roster.
“Hayden Beckwith is a good guy to follow his role,” said Carden. “Hayden is a really good kid and a good athlete, and he kind of had his stuff figured out. I’d say Hayden and Hunter Bryant were both good leaders. They did a good job last year.”
In addition to their vocal leadership, Carden and Turner have been setting the example with their performance on the field.
Both players are at or near the top of every major offensive category on the team. Carden sports a .447 average with 19 RBIs and six extra-base hits, while Turner is batting .421 with 18 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
With their two seniors leading the way, the Cobras have averaged over eight runs per game en route to an 11-4 record with five regular season games remaining.
“I would say confidence has been the biggest reason for our numbers,” Turner said. “All of our opponents are the same age or younger. The experience when you go through high school and get to senior year, it’s just like everything seems a little easier for you.”
Despite leading the team in batting average, hits and RBIs, Carden’s primary contribution has been on the mound. After racking up 101 strikeouts in 76 innings over his sophomore and junior seasons, Carden has come into his own this year as the undisputed ace of the pitching staff.
The senior has a record of 6-2 in 10 appearances thus far, striking out 54 while allowing just 15 earned runs in 37 1/3 innings pitched, but is still striving to achieve even more.
“I’m still not necessarily where I think I should be,” he said. “I’ve had a few games that could have gone a little bit better. ERA could be a little bit lower, but I’m satisfied with it. It’s been a pretty good start to a senior year.”
While Carden anchors the unit, the rest of the pitching rotation includes sophomores Daeton Bassett and Preston White, along with freshman Bryce Stauder.
With a trio of underclassmen gaining their first significant taste of varsity experience on the mound, their transition has been eased by the presence of Turner behind the plate.
As the starting catcher and a pitcher with eight appearances of his own
on the mound, Turner has helped guide Fountain Lake’s staff to a team ERA of 3.73, including five games allowing two runs or less.
“It can be stressful on the mound, especially for the young guys that can get in their head,” said Turner. “I just like to loosen up the environment. As coach (Josh) Wesson will tell you, we like to play around a lot. I yell a bunch of dumb stuff and do anything I can to keep those guys from over-thinking it out there.”
After suffering through a 1-6 record in conference to finish 10-10 overall last year, the Cobras have reeled off three separate threegame winning streaks to surpass that total with 11 wins and a record of 2-3 in the 3A/4A-8 blended conference.
“We got some new guys, some new sticks and we’ve definitely been hitting the ball better,” Turner said.
“This year, we’ve got a little bit of chemistry in the lineup I guess,” Carden added. “We’re stringing together more hits. Last year, we had games where we’d have two or three hits, but this year, it’s been more of a snowball effect. We start manufacturing runs and we look pretty good.”
With only five regular season games remaining before the start of the 4A-7 district tournament at Joe T. Robinson, both players have one overriding goal motivating their finish.
“I would say the end goal is regionals,” said Turner. “We haven’t been there in a long time. We’ve been close the last few years, but always got beat out, so I would say regional is our big goal.”
“If we can come up with two wins over Robinson and Arkadelphia (to close the regular season), we’ll be sitting pretty in district,” Carden said. “That gives us a pretty legitimate run at regionals, and that’s what we want.”
Fountain Lake is scheduled to travel to Centerpoint (6-9, 1-6) today and host Poyen (11-8, 5-1) on Tuesday. The Cobras are scheduled to close the regular season on April 23 at Gurdon (3-10, 0-5).
AT THE PLATE: Fountain Lake senior Stephen Turner awaits a pitch against Malvern on April 2. Turner has helped lead the Cobras on offense and in the field to an 11-4 record with five regular season games remaining.
LEADERSHIP ROLE: Fountain Lake senior Montana Carden prepares to catch a pitch April 2 against Malvern. Carden leads the Cobras as the team’s top batter, top pitcher and catcher for other pitchers.