Randy Hutchinson/5H Photography

Future Hogs square off for state title

An Arkansas signee won a state championship on his future home field Friday morning.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Regardless of how Friday morning's Arkansas Class 7A state championship game turned out, a future Razorback would be going home a winner.

Evan Hooper ended up being that guy, helping Cabot to a 2-1 victory over Springdale Har-Ber and Blake Adams.

The senior centerfielder, who signed with Arkansas in November, went 0 for 1 with a walk at the plate and played solid defense in the field. He said he enjoyed getting to play his final high school game at his future home.

"It's a completely different experience," Hooper said. "It's such a nice field, perfect grass, perfect dirt, perfect everything, perfect environment. There's nothing that can get any better than Baum Stadium."

Although the emotion of playing at the Razorbacks' home stadium has gotten to future players in the past, that wasn't the case for Hooper.

He did not get a hit, but both of his plate appearances went to a full count. His first resulted in a walk while his second was a solid line drive right at the Har-Ber centerfielder.

"There's times he can be a little emotional and I thought he controlled his nerves well and it was good for him," Cabot head coach Ronnie Goodwin said. "Even though the box score might not show the hits and whatnot, we talk about quality at bats...and (his two plate appearances) were quality at bats."

Both of Hooper's plate appearances were against Adams, Har-Ber's ace right-hander and an Arkansas commit for the class of 2019.

The sophomore struggled with his command early in the game, but settled down after allowing the first two batters in the second inning to reach. He retired 15 of the final 16 batters, including 10 straight to end the game.

"I was jacked up, lot of energy," Adams said. "I just had to settle down and throw strikes. I got there about the third inning."

By the time Adams found the zone, the damage had already been done. He gave up an RBI double following a walk in the first inning, while a wild pitch and a passed ball allowed the leadoff man in the second inning to score, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

Adam's final line was two earned runs on just three hits and two walks while striking out five in six innings. His arsenal included an effective slider and changeup once he got to the third inning.

"I like his fastball," Hooper said. "He threw me a lot of cheese, though. He threw me a lot of off speed. I got to see his fastball once or twice, not too many times. I got a lot of curveballs."

Despite him taking the loss, Adams pitched well enough to earn the respect of Cabot's coach.

"He's going to be a guy that this state's not going to enjoy facing the next two years," Goodwin said. "That's a big-time arm and he's only going to get better."

Now that he has a state championship under his belt, Hooper said he is looking forward to getting on campus and competing for a spot in Arkansas' outfield.

"I've always wanted to be a Razorback," Hooper said. "Growing up, from Arkansas, that's what everybody wants to do. They want to be a Hog. The facilities are perfect. I love it all. I couldn't ask for a better college to go too."

Injuries prevented Hooper from playing his junior season and the first half of his senior season, but when he got healthy, he was a critical piece to Cabot's first baseball state championship.

He had three game-winning hits during the second half of the season, including one that lifted the Panthers to a victory during the playoffs. However, Hooper's speed and defense is what sets him apart from everyone else.

"He's a plus, plus defender with a lot of speed," Goodwin said. "I know coach (Dave) Van Horn likes guys that are athletic and can run and that's his thing. As he continues to get into their program and develop, the bat will come more and more.

"He's going to get himself so many opportunities just by the speed and the defense and the short game that comes along with the speed offensively."

While Hooper will be with the Razorbacks next season, Arkansas fans will have to wait until the 2020 season to see Adams pitching at Baum Stadium in an Arkansas uniform.

That's a long time away, but he didn't think there were any reasons to wait, so he committed to the Razorbacks last summer.

"It's always been the school I wanted to go to and then I got a good offer," Adams said. "There was no point of recruiting any more, so I committed early."

Randy Hutchinson/5H Photography

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