The 11th annual Billy Bock Classic will start Thursday and end on Saturday in a double-elimination tournament that will feature some well-known teams around the local area. The winners will face off in a champions bracket while the losers will play in a consolation bracket.
The event hosted by Pine Bluff will feature the Zebras along with Dollarway, Harrison, Hermitage, Stuttgart, White Hall, Woodlawn, and the JV squad from Watson Chapel.
Two powerhouse southeast Arkansas squads, White Hall (1-1) and Woodlawn, will face off today at 5 p.m. at White Hall. The Bulldogs are the defending champions of the tournament after a 12-10 victory over the Harrison Goblins last season while Woodlawn (4-0) enters the tournament undefeated.
White Hall head coach Skip Carr smiled when asked if he felt any added pressure being the defending champions of the tournament.
“Right now, I’m just trying to figure out a starting lineup,” Carr said with a laugh. “It’s still early in the season. We were fortunate enough to win last year, and we are just trying to get ready for our first game in the tournament.”
Carr said this type of tournament gives his kids some experience in how the state tournament will play out if they are fortunate to make it this year.
“The reason we get in tournaments is to give our kids a feel of tournament play,” Carr said. “In hope that we get to the state tournament, this will give them some experience of playing in tournament games.”
The Woodlawn Bears face a tough challenge being a 2A school while most the teams in the tournament are 5A and higher. Woodlawn head coach Tommy Richardson said his squad is looking forward to the challenge and competing.
“We are honored to be playing in such a tournament with all these bigger schools,” Richardson said. “We’ll see better pitching in this tournament than we will anywhere else. I think we got a group of kids who work hard and we’ll be OK. We play to play the game and not the name.”
Along with being undefeated, Woodlawn has some experience with returning players who participated last year.
“We have quite a few players returning from last year,” Richardson said. “Anytime you can have returning kids, it will be big in terms of playing in a tournament. It will make us better in the long run.”
Both Carr and Richardson said their teams are looking forward to facing one another and both are expecting to see a good game.
“They are going to be very good,” Carr said. “Coach (Tommy) Richardson does a great job with their program. They will be fundamentally sound. They’ll hit well and pitch well and make very few, if any mistakes.”
Richardson said he had much respect for White Hall’s program.
“White Hall is a good baseball program,” Richardson said. “They have had a good baseball program for years. I know they have that (Daniel) Sprinkle kid who throws hard. Seeing good pitching always makes us better. We just want to see us compete.”
Pine Bluff (2-0) will open against Hermitage at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at Taylor Field. Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said he is looking for a few things from his team while they play in the tournament.
“I want us to play well, play focused and play hard,” Stinson said. “All the teams will be well-coached and will be good ballclubs. We need to just play some good baseball.”
While the tournament could set up some great matches, Stinson said his focus is on his team’s improvement game by game rather than who they could potentially face.
“Baseball is a game of mental fortitude and focus,” Stinson said. “Any time you step on the field, you want to try and better yourself from the last time you played. All games help, no matter who you are playing. We just hope to have some good competition and some great games. With the teams coming in, I’m expecting this to be a good tournament.”