Just when Pine Bluff pulled within two runs of conference rival Sheridan, the Yellowjackets did what they did best all game — score after two outs.
All of their runs came in two-out situations, in fact. Sheridan scored four in the seventh inning to pull away for a 9-3 victory Tuesday at Taylor Field, staying in the thick of 6A-South Conference baseball race.
“It helps a lot to do that,” said clean-up hitter Josh Miller, who went 4 for 4 with a walk to lead Sheridan (9-4, 4-1 in 6A-South), connecting three times with two outs.
“I just like this field, I guess,” the Henderson State football signee said. “I come here and hit well.”
Landon Huggins, a 9-hole designated hitter, was 3 for 4, making each of his hits with one out for the Jackets. Grady Finley and Jake Smith each added two hits.
In all, Sheridan had 14 hits, matching its total in a 12-7 win at Watson Chapel on March 15.
“They’re swinging it,” Pine Bluff coach Greg Easter said. “I thought with (pitcher Ryan) Green, we could keep them off-balance and stuff, but they started sitting on a fastball.”
Green struck out five and walked one in 6 2/3 innings, but allowed all nine runs on 14 hits in 86 pitches.
Pine Bluff (2-11, 1-4) now has to try and rebound in today’s crosstown rivalry game against Watson Chapel. First pitch at Taylor Field is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The Zebras didn’t get on the board until the fifth inning, but drew within 5-3 in the sixth on back-to-back RBI hits by Brandon Starks and LaDarius Washington. Starks doubled on a full count.
But the Zebras had plenty more opportunities. Offensively, they left six on base, including five in scoring position. Defensively, there were the missed chances to get out of innings with two outs.
“I don’t know what the mind-frame is when we get two outs,” Easter said. “It’s somebody different, all the time. It’s one of those things in baseball you sit and scratch your head about, and it gets to a point (where one says), ‘Who’s next?’”
Miller made the Zebras pay first with a first-inning RBI single. In the second, Green hit a batter and Justin Glidden scored on an error on Tyler Raney’s at-bat before Miller forced in the third run with a walk.
It was 4-0 in the fourth after Miller hit a double deep into right field and Grady Finley followed with a bloop single. Easter said the bloop was the hit that bothered him the most because his players didn’t go after it.
Finally for the Zebras, Keifer Beckford ended the shutout with an RBI single in the fifth.
Green was well on his way to a complete game with two outs and three batters faced in the seventh when Alec Pender hit an RBI triple, starting a string of three straight hits. Raney was called safe when a stretched-out put-out attempt by first baseman Larry Williams apparently did not come in time, allowing another run to score.
“That was pretty key, too, especially when I had given him (a sign to) take,” Sheridan coach Mike Moore said.
Miller then singled, Finley was hit by a pitch, and Jake Smith smacked a two-run single before Green was pulled. Williams retired the next batter to end the inning.
“I probably left Green in there a little too long,” Easter said. “He had the easy sixth inning (no runs in four batters faced), and I thought he could finish it off.”
Ryan Taylor held Pine Bluff to one run on four hits and three walks and struck out two in four-plus innings for the win. Finley tossed three K’s, walked one and allowed two runs on three hits the rest of the way.
“If we didn’t score in that seventh, I’m not sure (the Zebras) end with just three (runs) in the ballgame,” Moore said. “But it was a good ballgame.”
Washington went 2 for 2 with a walk to lead the Zebras.
Sheridan, Benton, Lake Hamilton and El Dorado each have one loss in the conference, Moore said. Tuesday’s Lake Hamilton at El Dorado game was postponed.