ARKADELPHIA — It was raining balls Wednesday night for White Hall as they tallied four home runs — including two in the top of the seventh — to defeat Pine Bluff Western 9-3 in the loser bracket semifinals of the 12-year-old Little League state tournament.
“We were hungry,” White Hall manager Jason Young said. “That is what we have lived up during this whole thing.
“We tried a two-strike approach and we put the ball in play.”
White Hall sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh inning as they scored six runs to break a 3-3 tie.
“We battled out there but we came out flat from the time we showed up and the kids know that,” PB Western manager Jason Terry said. “When you do that, that’s what happens.”
White Hall’s Spencer Smith led off the top of the seventh with a walk. After one out, relief pitcher Austin Weatherford gave up a single to Riley Durmon and then a three-home run to Bradley Reece.
“Bradley has been in a slump for a few games,” Young said. “In practice, he was probably our best home run hitter but he just got into a slump.
“He stepped his game up and crushed one over. Once he did, everybody kind of fed off that.”
Griffin Haynes worked a one-out walk and Zack Motsinger singled to put runners at first and second. Ryan Ruff hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out.
Walker Bailey followed with a three-run home run — his second home run of the game — to give White Hall the six-run lead.
Western defeated White Hall twice in the district tournament, so Young said there was maybe a little extra incentive for Wednesday’s game.
“One thing about this team, they never give up,” Young said. “There are no quitters on the team.
“We want to go to Waco and there is still a long road ahead of us.”
For Western, Drew Raines is tagged with the loss after he pitched 6 1/3 innings but was pulled after he reached his max pitch count. He allowed four runs (all earned) on five hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
“We came in and we were prepared for his fastball,” Young said. “[Drew] is a great pitcher, hats off to him.”
Weatherford pitched 1/3 of an inning for Western. He allowed five runs (all earned) on four hits with one walk and no strikeouts.
The game, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, was put on hold after a severe thunderstorm moved through the area. The two teams were able to play an inning and a half so on Wednesday they picked up where they left off.
Terry said that was still no excuse for how his team played.
“It is just kids being kids,” Terry said. “We battled, they were just the better team today.”
Western took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Kaleb Hill hit a solo home run.
“When he hit that home run, I thought we might have a shot,” Terry said. “But with Ruff on the mound, I knew it was going to take more than that, because we wouldn’t be able to hold them down all game.”
Ruff pitched six innings and is credited with the win. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
“He is tough on the mound,” Terry said. “We sat on the curveball in the sixth, but couldn’t scratch across the last run.”
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Western’s Raines hit a double to right-center field. He moved to third on a wild pitch. A fielder’s choice allowed Tyler McBride to reach first but held Triston Young, who pinch ran for Raines, at third.
Rod Stinson hit a slow roller back to the pitcher and it was enough to score the tying run as the catcher dropped the throw from Ruff.
With runners at second and third, Ruff struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
“He’s a great kid and well rounded,” Young said. “His pitching coach has been working with him for the last couple years and I think he is one of the better ones in the state.”
White Hall tied the game at 2 in the top of the fourth inning on back-to-back solo home runs by Ruff and Bailey.
“I couldn’t have asked for much more from this team,” Terry said. “This is a good bunch of kids. We just came out flat on the wrong day and it cost us.”
For White Hall, Motsinger finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Ruff was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Bailey was 2-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Reece finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored.
For Western, Hill finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Raines was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
White Hall will now face Malvern in the state championship at 6 p.m. Thursday in Arkadelphia. White Hall would have to defeat Malvern twice on Thursday to win the championship.