Watson Chapel graduate Kirel Young saw his dedication to the batting cage pay off Saturday as his run-scoring triple in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Pine Bluff Tigers a 4-3 lead and eventual win over the Mississippi Vision at Taylor Field.
“I’ve been in a batting cage a lot,” Young said afterward. “I’ve been working on my swing and trying to get better for the team.”
With one out in the sixth, Montai Bolden reached first after being hit-by-a-pitch. He advanced to second on a stolen base and went to third on a groundout.
Young’s two-out triple gave the Tigers the one-run lead. Manager Ernest Wooten thought about trying to send Young home, but decided against it.
“I believed I could have scored,” Young said. “But I was trying to put myself in scoring position for the next guy.”
Young finished 2 for 4 with an RBI.
“He has just been hitting the ball well the whole series,” Wooten said. “I’m just proud of the hard work he has been putting in.”
The win secures a spot in today’s PRO-DAY World Series championship. The Tigers will face the Bryant Black Sox at 2:30 p.m.
Pine Bluff would have faced Mississippi in a rematch, but the Vision had to go home because school starts on Monday for them.
The Tigers did not start off well, giving up a run in each of the first three innings to trail 3-0 after three complete. But a two-run double by Bolden in the bottom of the fourth inning got Pine Bluff within one run, and an infield single by Adam Graham plated Bolden to tie the game.
“These kids in the dugout never feel like they are behind,” Wooten said. “They just keep battling.
“I’m just proud of them for staying in the game and battling through the whole thing.”
Bolden finished the game 1 for 2 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“We have a lot of heart and discipline for ourselves,” Young said. “We don’t get down on ourselves as easy, like every other team does.”
Jamar Johnson earned the win on the mound after pitching a complete game, allowing three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and six walks.
“I haven’t really practiced too much because I’ve been off campus,” Johnson said. “I had to get a rhythm going and once I got it going, it was alright.”
Once Pine Bluff tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, Johnson said some of the pressure had been taken off his shoulders.
“Jamar has been so consistent all year for us,” Wooten said. “He’s just one of those guys that will say, ‘Coach, I want it.’
“He’s a great kid and a hard worker.”
After losing to PRO-DAY on Thursday, the Tigers reeled off three straight wins to reach today’s championship.
“We lost the first game,” Johnson said. “So to come back and win the next three, it feels good.
“We got a good group here. The whole team is always together.”
Even after trailing 3-0 early, Young never lost faith in his pitcher.
“I knew he would get himself together,” Young said. “He always does. He’s our go-to pitcher.”
The win, however, does overshadow the fact that the Tigers left 10 runners on base including two bases loaded situations.
“We left runners on all day,” Wooten said.
In the bottom of the fifth, with the game tied, Trevor Langford led off the inning with a double and later moved to third on a passed ball. He was left stranded after back-to-back strikeouts and a routine pop up to first.
“I take the blame for that,” Wooten said. “Maybe I should have bunted the ball or something, but I had my bigger guys up and I wanted to see them make a play.
“I take the fault for that one.”
The Tigers managed just four hits in the game.
“We fought back and tied the game,” Wooten said. “That’s a good team over there, but we just fought back and just had to have the win.”
Bryant Black Sox 13, Relyance Bank 10
Relyance Bank’s seventh inning rally came up short as a seven-run deficit was too much to overcome Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field.
Relyance trailed Bryant by as many as 10 runs, but a six-spot in the fourth and four runs in the bottom of the seventh got Relyance within three runs.
Bryant scored seven of its runs in the third inning. Cameron Coleman was named the game’s MVP and led the Black Sox with three hits.
For Relyance, Turner Sparks was a home run short of hitting for the cycle. Caleb Carr, who tallied three hits and two runs, was tagged with the loss on the mound.
Bryant Black Sox 11, PRO-DAY Elite 5
Jake Frost led Bryant with three hits as the Black Sox defeated PRO-DAY Elite 11-5 in the first game of Saturday.
Bryant scored four runs in the first, one in the second, one in the fourth and fifth, and four in the top of the seventh.
PRO-DAY scored four runs in the sixth and one in the first.
Chris Cooley was 2 for 3 for PRO-DAY.