WHITE HALL — Lane Hartsfield wasted no time making an impact for White Hall in the Little League District 3 Tournament at Dickey Lunsford Field Wednesday night.
Hartsfield deposited the second pitch of the game by Pine Bluff’s Kaleb Hill over the left field fence to spark White Hall’s offense as the White Hall All-Star’s beat Pine Bluff Western 8-4 in the opening game of the event.
Hartsfield also belted a two-run home run in the second and doubled and scored in the fourth as White Hall dented the scoreboard in every inning with two runs in the first, second and third innings and lone runs in the fourth and fifth.
“He is just a ball player,” White Hall coach Sheldon Pratt said. “That is what you can expect to see out of that young man every time he plays. It doesn’t matter where he is on the field.”
Hartsfield said he was concentrating on just making solid contact.
“I was thinking doubles,” Hartsfield said. “I was swinging 80 percent today and just got a hold of a couple of pitches. I just hit them in the right spot.”
Hartsfield also made an impression on the mound, limiting Western to four runs on five hits in five innings, walking two and striking out six.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and hopefully it would be there,” Hartsfield said. “I tried to keep the ball down and make them hit ground balls.”
He worked around a leadoff walk to Braylon Hence in the top of the first and a leadoff single by JaKobi Jackson in the top of the third.
Pine Bluff scored a run in the second when Drew Raines doubled and crossed the plate on a squeeze bunt by Rod Stinson. Hartsfield cruised through the next two innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Josh Pierce reached on an error to lead off the frame and Braylon Hence, Jackson and Blake Hence followed with singles. Blake Hence’s single plated Pierce and Kaleb Hill brought Jackson home with a sacrifice bunt. But Hartsfield fanned Raines and Dawson Smith to end the threat and Western failed to score again.
“We have been practicing for three weeks and this was our first game together,” Pine Bluff coach Andy Crossett said. “We had a lot of feeling out to do. I thought we had good pitching. They just got the timely hits and we didn’t.”
Hartsfield entered the sixth inning three pitches shy of the 85 maximum allowed by Little League rules and Skylar Webb ended the right-handed hurler’s night by reaching on an error.
“Lane had plenty of confidence knowing he had one guy left in the last inning,” Pratt said. “He could look around and see six positions that were ready to pitch. And he has as much confidence in them as he has in himself.”
Remington Curtis came on in relief and struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Braylon Hence. Curtis regained his composure to catch Jackson looking at strike three to end the game.
“I have been working with Remy for three years now,” Pratt said. “When Remy throws that first strike he is tough. When he throws the first ball it’s scary. But when I saw that first strike tonight and saw him come straight out and get after it you knew it was going to happen.”
While Hartsfield and Curtis were keeping Pine Bluff’s bats at bay, White Hall’s offense took advantage of two lefties on the mound in Hill and Jackson. Hill lasted two innings and gave up five runs on five hits while Jackson’s two innings resulted in two runs on five hits.
“We are going to continue playing,” Crossett said. “I will take this loss. Sometimes it takes a game or two. As you saw we threw three different pitchers and I have a couple more that I could have used. But this team is going to fight. We will keep fighting and be here (today), Saturday and Sunday.”
Hartsfield’s three-hit, three RBI performance led White Hall but wasn’t the only spark of power as Garrett Dennis also homered and singled twice, driving in three runs. Dennis’ long ball came in the third inning off Jackson, the second batter he faced.
Bryce Kincaid singled twice and drove in a run for White Hall, Zac Harbison singled and scored twice and Dutton Day belted a double and scored a run.
White Hall will face Hot Springs at 7 p.m. tonight in the second round of the tournament. Day is expected to get the start on the mound for White Hall.