WHITE HALL — With a trip to South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series on the horizon, Pine Bluff Western and White Hall took a necessary step last week by finishing as the top two teams in the district to advance to this week’s state tournament at White Hall City Park.
With White Hall and Malvern receiving a first-round bye in the six-team field, Pine Bluff Western will be put to the test in today’s opening round against Corning. First pitch is slated for 8 p.m.
White Hall will face the winner of today’s 6 p.m. tournament opener between Gurdon and Walnut Ridge.
White Hall won the district tournament by beating Pine Bluff Western 1-0 in the deciding game of the double-elimination format. Western rebounded from an 8-4 loss in the tournament opener with a 10-0 win in the first of two rematch games.
“We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win,” Pratt said. “That is a very good Western team and they are only going to get better after playing the district tournament.”
Pratt said pitching would be elemental to either of the two local programs trying to reach regional play in Waco, Texas, the final stop before South Williamsport.
“Malvern brings a good team and Gurdon always has a good program,” he said. “And you can never count out Walnut Ridge. We have to pitch well in order to get there. We always expect to see good pitching. That’s what gets you there. We hope they throw their ace in the first game and we get to see a No. 2.”
Pratt will likely send staff ace Lane Hartsfield to the mound in the first game as the righty controlled Western in the district tournament, striking out six in five innings and allowing just six hits in the 8-4 victory. He also proved worthy at the plate with two home runs, a double and three RBIs.
Zac Harbison, Garrett Dennis and Dutton Day also have power as Dennis homered twice in the district tournament while Harbison drove in the only run in the 1-0 finale. Day also went yard in district play.
The Western lineup relies on speed to manufacture runs with Braylon and Blake Hence and JaKobi Jackson at the top of the order, setting the table for Kaleb Hill, Drew Raines and Dawson Smith in the middle.
Jackson picked up the win in the shutout victory against White Hall.
Pine Bluff coach Andy Crossett could not be reached.