After giving up four runs in the first two innings, Sheridan’s Tyler Raney settled in and pitched five shutout innings as the Yellowjackets defeated the Zebras 6-4 Friday night at Taylor Field.
“He started throwing more breaking balls first pitch and more breaking balls period,” Sheridan head coach Mike Moore said. “He kept the location down and it pretty much handcuffed them the rest of the way.”
Raney allowed just two hits in the final five innings. He allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in a complete game effort.
Pine Bluff (9-6, 2-4 7A/6A South) scored two runs in the first and two in the second to take a 4-3 lead.
“In the first couple of innings, they were real aggressive and we were a little up in the zone,” Moore said. “They were hitting it around a little bit.”
Sheridan (14-4, 5-2) tied the game in the top of the third thanks to an RBI single by Reese Lisenbey. The Yellowjackets took a 6-4 lead thanks to runs in the top of the fourth.
“I was proud of our guys,” Moore said. “We took a pretty good punch from them early on, but then it turned into a pitching duel the last three or four innings.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Pine Bluff’s Braylen Jones and Adam Graham reached after both were hit-by-a-pitch.
“I felt like there were a couple of pitches that (Raney) had been getting all ball game, and he didn’t get it right there,” Moore said. “He got caught up in the moment a little bit behind the plate and he let it unnerve him a little bit.”
Fortunately for Sheridan, Jaylon DeShazier’s sacrifice bunt attempt went right back to the pitcher, which allowed for the force play at third. Kacy Higgins followed with a check swing for an easy out at first.
It did move the runners to second and third, but with two outs.
“When they didn’t get those guys to second and third with just one out, it got us our momentum back,” Moore said.
Before the seventh inning started, Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson told his guys to take until they got a strike. So when Higgins grounded out on the first pitch, he was a little disappointed.
“You want to take a better cut,” Stinson said. “Especially when you got no balls and no strikes.
“It was just a little check swing and that was unfortunate.”
Laney struck out Tyler Smith – his third strikeout of the game – for the final out.
“We got to learn how to sit back on that breaking ball and go the other way,” Stinson said. “We worked on that in practice, we just got to bring it to the game.
“Once we do that, we will become a better team.”
Pine Bluff starter Kenneth Gatewood lasted just one inning and suffered the loss. He gave up three runs (all earned) on two hits with two walks.
In his first appearance of the season, Pine Bluff senior J’Marlos Johnson pitched five innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on eight hits with two walks and one strikeout.
“J’Marlos is a veteran,” Stinson said. “He has been through the battles and I was expecting him to do that.
“Late, he got a little tired and you could see his ball was getting a little flat. … I was very impressed with what he did.
“We can look forward to him pitching some big games for us in the future.”
Higgins hit an RBI single in the first and later scored thanks to a hit by Smith and an error in the outfield. It gave Pine Bluff a 2-1 lead.
DeShazier led the Zebras at the plate, finishing the day 2 for 4. Gealander Harris was 2 for 3 with a run scored and Jones was 1 for 2 with a run and an RBI.
For Sheridan, Brady Bibb was 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. Lisenbey was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Pine Bluff will play Maumelle on Monday at 5 p.m. and Sheridan will host Texarkana on Tuesday.