Pine Bluff coach Ryan Stinson talks with the team during a break in the action Friday against Bryant at Taylor Field. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
A common theme for the Pine Bluff Zebras this season is allowing a huge inning early and not being able to overcome the deficit.
The bad habit continued on Friday as Pine Bluff (3-5, 0-2 7A/6A-South) gave up 11 runs in the second inning and lost 13-2 to Bryant at Taylor Field.
“That has pretty much been our story this season,” Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said. “But we are going to keep battling and we are going to keep fighting.”
Despite the bad inning, Stinson said one thing he was proud about was the fact the Zebras “didn’t give up.”
“After that one bad inning, the game was pretty much even from there on out,” Stinson said. “If we can knock that one bad inning out, we could turn into a real good ballclub.”
Bryant’s Korey Thompson led off the second inning by reaching on a dropped fly ball in right field. He advanced to second on a single by Ty Harris. Tyler Green loaded the bases with a bunt.
Trevor Ezell hit a three-run double to left centerfield to give the Hornets a 4-1 lead.
“We hit the ball a lot harder today,” Bryant head coach Kirk Bock said. “And we made some good adjustments on pitches, which we hadn’t been making in the past.”
Hayden Lessenberry hit a single and Marcus Wilson followed with a RBI double to plate Ezell and give the Hornets a 5-1 lead.
Jason Hastings loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch and Harrison Dale hit a RBI single to plate Lessenberry. Bryant lead 7-1 after Wilson scored on the throw in.
After a double steal by Dale and Austin Caldwell – the courtesy runner for Hastings – to move the runners to second and third, Hayden Daniel hit a sacrifice fly to give the Hornets an 8-1 lead.
A sacrifice bunt by Thompson moved Dale to third and he later scored on a passed ball for a 9-1 lead.
Harris reached after being hit by a pitch and Green hit a single left field to put runners on first and second.
Ezell followed with a three-run home run to right field and give the Hornets a 12-1 lead. Ezell finished 3 for 4 with three runs scored and six RBIs.
“We hit the ball real well in that one inning,” Bock said. “We took advantage of some of the mistakes that they made.”
Bryant got on the first inning after Dale forced in a run after being hit by a pitch. Pine Bluff tied the game in the bottom of the first.
With one out in the first, Pine Bluff’s Aaron McDonald hit a double. He later scored on a RBI single by senior Demetrius Anderson.
Pine Bluff lost 6-5 to Texarkana in nine innings on Tuesday. However, Stinson said he didn’t believe there was any kind of hangover from that loss, saying the Zebras have had a couple of good practices since then.
“I just think it is something we have to get out of our system,” Stinson said, referring to the big innings Pine Bluff tends to allow. “It has been happening in several games over the course of the season.
“It is something that just happens periodically during different games and we just got to get that out of our system.
“We will be a very good ball club, once we can do that.”
Pine Bluff scored its second run in the bottom of the second inning.
With one out, junior Ti’Montai Bolden walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. A two-out RBI single by Braylen Jones scored Bolden from second to cut Bryant’s lead to 12-2.
Bryant scored its final run of the game in the third thanks to a RBI sacrifice fly by Daniel.
McDonald came in for J’Marlos Johnson in the second inning and after giving up the home run to Ezell, pitched a fairly good game from that point on.
“He’s a senior and he’s been through the battles before,” Stinson said. “He knows how to get it done.
“I thought he did real well, once he settled down and kept the game even. I thought it was a good performance.”
McDonald pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits with three walks and one strikeout. Johnson started the game and allowed 11 runs (six earned) on eight hits with two walks and a strikeout.
For Bryant, Hastings lasted all five innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
McDonald was 1 for 3 on the night with a run scored. Anderson was 1 for 2 with a RBI and Bolden was 0 for 1 with a run scored and a RBI. Jones was 1 for 2 with a RBI.
For Bryant, Green was 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Wilson was 2 for 4 with a RBI and a run scored. Dale was 1 for 2 with a run and three RBIs. Daniel was 0 for 1 with two RBIs.
Pine Bluff will host Lake Hamilton at Taylor Field on March 26 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Zebras will travel to Little Rock Fair on March 29.