Wingstop, PBNB to begin state tournaments Friday


Johnny Skillen is going to have a busy weekend.

The coach of Pine Bluff National Bank (17-and-under) and Wingstop (19-and-under) will lead both Dixie League Baseball teams in their respective state tournaments in Nashville beginning Friday.

The winners of each tournament will qualify for their respective division’s World Series.

According to Skillen, the 17-and-under division’s World Series will be held in Alabama and the 19-and-under championship will be held in South Carolina.

PBNB will kick off its six-team tournament with a game at 6 p.m. against Hope with Jeffery Jones taking the hill for PBNB.

Wingstop will play the first game of its three-team tournament at 8:30 p.m. against Prescott.

Watson Chapel High School graduate Zach Bradford will be getting the start on the mound for Wingstop.

The left-handed pitching Bradford, who is one of four college players on Wingstop’s roster, just completed his freshman year at Northern Oklahoma College.

Players from Wingstop and PBNB played in a tune-up game against the Pine Bluff Braves semi-pro baseball team on Tuesday.

“It went really well,” Skillen said of the game. “They beat us 11-0, but we got about eight hits off of them.

“I let my younger guys play a couple of innings, and then let my older guys play a few.”

PBNB has only faced two of the other five teams in its tournament, Nashville and Southwest Arkansas.

According to Skillen, his team lost to Nashville 6-3 in a road contest and beat Southwest Arkansas 6-4 to win the Jim Hill Wood Bat Tournament at Taylor Stadium.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Skillen said of PBNB’s season. “They are down to making mistakes they can control.

“I’m real proud of them.”

Inexperience against higher levels of competition has kept the team’s record below .500 this season.

“I’ve got some pretty good young players,” Skillen said. “They’ve played up most of the year against older teams.”

Despite its record, Skillen expects PBNB to compete in the state tournament.

“I expect them to do really well,” Skillen said. “I think we’ll win at least two games.”

In its tournament, Wingstop will face one team Skillen is familiar with and one he is not.

“I know Camden very well,” Skillen said. “They are a tough and are very well-coached team.

“I don’t know the first thing about Prescott.”

According to Skillen, Wingstop came in second to Camden at a tournament in Crossett and also tied them once this season.

Camden will be Wingstop’s second opponent of the tournament. That game will start at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Wingstop might have a slight advantage in the game, because Camden will not play its first game of the tournament until 9 a.m. Saturday against Prescott.

“(Camden playing twice Saturday) should give us an advantage, but it’s not necessarily so,” Skillen said. “It can go either way, some teams do better playing back-to-back and some don’t.

“Honestly, we are not much of a back-to-back team.”

With a record of 20-4-1 heading into the state tournament Skillen is confident in his team.

“I think we have a good chance of winning it,” Skillen said.