Pine Bluff pitcher Aaron McDonald throws a strike against Watson Chapel on Friday. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Watson Chapel scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to six walks in the inning as the Wildcats (1-0) defeated city rival Pine Bluff 8-0 Friday night.
“I thought up until the sixth inning, we played well,” Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said. “We made a few mistakes and gave up a few walks but that’s OK.
“We will battle back from it.”
Pine Bluff drops to 1-1 on the season.
Watson Chapel’s Jacob Owen and Jordan Stargell led off the sixth with back-to-back walks. An error by the pitcher allowed Owen and Stargell to advance to third and second base.
Justin Pierce hit a sacrifice bunt to score Owen and advance Stargell to third. Three straight walks loaded the bases for Justin Dardenne.
Dardenne forced in a run when he walked on four straight pitches. Jaylen Jackson hit a sacrifice fly to left-center field to score another run and Landon Colson followed with a RBI double with two outs.
“It was a tough day for baseball,” Watson Chapel head coach Chad Cope said. “We got a whole new team this year and I think we are starting around four sophomores, so there is a bit of a learning curve.”
Chapel, a 5A state runner-up last year, also scored a run in the fourth and fifth inning.
“I think it is early,” Stinson said. “Our pitchers haven’t thrown to a lot of live batters.
“I think as the season goes on, we will get better. We will progress.”
Jackson led off the fourth with a walk and a stolen base. With two outs, Stargell walked to put runners on first and second.
Chapel took the lead when Pierce hit a RBI single to plate Jackson.
In the fifth, Trevor Lankford – who led off the inning with a single – later scored from third on an error.
Pierce finished the game 1 for 2 with two RBIs.
Pine Bluff pitcher Aaron McDonald went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
For Watson Chapel, Dardenne is credited with the win after pitching six innings, allowing two hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
“I was proud of my pitching,” Cope said. “Our kids threw strikeouts and didn’t make any errors.
“That’s one thing we can pride ourselves in is our defense. Josh did a good job. We will get better.”
Pine Bluff was thrown out at second base twice in the first inning. Stinson said one of the times was a missed hit-and-run.
“That catcher had a good arm,” Stinson said. “If you make contact with the ball, holes will open up.
“But it is early. I believe we will get better as the season progress.”
Pine Bluff’s Adam Graham was 2 for 3, including an infield single. The only other Pine Bluff player to tally a hit was Jordan O’Guinn.
“What I like to try to do a lot of times is hit and run or bunt and run,” Stinson said. “I like to try be aggressive on the base path and try to generate some offense.”
The Zebras will play Bald Knob in the first round of the Billy Bock Classic on Thursday at Taylor Field beginning at 4 p.m. Watson Chapel will play Star City immediately following.
“They are so young,” Cope said. “We will get better. They will get better as the year goes on.
“We will have some ups and downs.”