WHITE HALL — When Pine Bluff Western suffered a 1-0 loss to White Hall in the championship game of the Little League District 3 Tournament last week, it wanted another chance to prove it was one of the best, if not the best, teams in the state.
Western will have that chance today after shelling Malvern 12-0 in the second round of the 12-year-old Little League state tournament at Dickie Lunsford Field at White Hall City Park on Saturday afternoon.
Western advanced to the semifinals with the win and sets up today’s 1 p.m. rematch with White Hall, which blasted Gurdon 14-2 in the other quarterfinal matchup.
“This sets it up,” Pine Bluff coach Marvin Hence said. “It’s White Hall versus PB. It’s just going to be a good game between two cities. It’s an in-town rivalry and we are going to go for it.”
The winner of today’s rematch affair could be on the fast track to punch its ticket to the Little League regional in Waco, Texas. Malvern failed to present much of a challenge after entering the state tournament as a No. 1 seed and drew a first-round bye.
Pine Bluff dismantled Malvern early with a first-inning solo home run by JaKobi Jackson, the first of two on the day, and added four runs in the second, two in the fourth and five in the sixth. Jackson was intentionally walked in his second plate appearance in the second inning to load the bases, a decision that backfired against Malvern as Aaron Frazier belted a grand slam off a light pole in left field to put Western up 5-0.
“They were putting it in my zone and I was just waiting on it and hitting it,” Jackson said. “I was hitting it hard and got a couple over.”
Malvern decided to pitch to Jackson in the fourth with Braelin Hence aboard and Jackson again found the parking lot with his second long ball of the day. He was intentionally walked again in the sixth.
Dawson Smith added a double as Western pounded out seven hits against Malvern, which dropped to the losers’ bracket and will play at 3 p.m. today against Walnut Ridge. Corning and Gurdon will square off at 5 p.m. in the other losers’ bracket game.
Frazier picked up the win on the mound as three Pine Bluff pitchers combined to no-hit Malvern. Frazier fanned three in two innings of work while Braelin Hence pitched the middle three and struck out seven. He allowed two walks, the only base runners Malvern got. Jackson fanned the side in the sixth to close it out.
Western has outscored its opponents 29-0 in two state tournament games.
“”I can’t say we are the best team here until we play everybody,” Jackson said. “When we play all the teams, we will see if we are the best team here. I think we are. But we will see.”