Pine Bluff freshman Jaylon DeShazier pitched a complete-game shutout, scattering five hits, as the Zebras defeated first-place Benton 1-0 Friday night at Taylor Field in the regular-season finale.
“For us as a team, it was big because it was a conference win,” Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said. “… Hard work and battling through these tough situations makes a good team.
“These kids have fought all year. It was just a great win for us.”
DeShazier struck out 10 batters and walked just one.
“I feel good,” DeShazier said. “But I couldn’t do it without my team.
“They had my back the whole game. We just went out there and got the win.”
DeShazier helped himself out in the sixth inning.
“I just wanted to get it out into the outfield so we could score,” DeShazier said.
With a runner on third with just one out, DeShazier hit a deep fly ball to right field. Benton’s Chase Nix dropped the fly ball, allowing for Kacy Higgins — who reached on an infield single — to score the go-ahead run.
“We came out flat (Friday),” Benton head coach Mark Balisterri said. “They were more hungry than we were.
“They wanted to win it more than we did.”
Despite giving up a two-out single to Benton’s Jack Jumper, DeShazier got through the top of the seventh unscathed to secure the win for Pine Bluff (12-11, 5-9 in 7A/6A-South).
“That was big,” Stinson said of DeShazier’s performance. “The only thing that is going to do is boost his confidence.
“He’ll be around for three more years and I’m pretty sure not a lot of people are going to want to see him.
“… I’m so proud of that kid.”
Benton falls to 23-4 overall and 11-3 in the conference.
DeShazier ran into trouble in the fifth inning. He gave up a lead off single to Ben Brausell but was able to strike out the next two batters.
“He battled and he does what we ask him to do,” Stinson said. “You can’t ask anything more from a ninth-grader.”
With two outs and Brausell on first, Nix singled and a double steal moved both runners into scoring position. DeShazier struck out the final batter to end the threat.
“Their pitcher did a good job,” Balisterri said. “He just threw strikes. He didn’t get us out with his curveball, we just didn’t swing the bat.”
Balisterri said his team hasn’t struck out 10 times in a game in a long time.
“I like intense games,” DeShazier said. “We just went out there and got the win.”
Gealander Harris III led Pine Bluff with two hits in two trips. Adam Graham and Higgins had a hit each.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them all year,” Stinson said. “If you stay in the game and you battle, good things will happen.
“That was proof.”
Brian Krikorian pitched a complete game in the loss. He allowed just one run (unearned) on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
“We played good defense and our pitcher did a good job,” Balisterri said. “We just didn’t make the right adjustments at the plate.”
Pine Bluff will either earn the No. 5 or the No. 6 seed for next week’s 6A State tournament, hosted by Benton. The Panthers have already locked up the No. 1 seed, which according to Balisterri, may be why Benton played flat in Friday’s loss.
“I guess it was just a tough game for us to play,” Balisterri said.
Colby Johnson, Drew Dyer, Nix, Brausell and Jumper all had hits for the Panthers.