STAR CITY — Braylen Jones’ first outing of the season was a successful one despite not recording a single strikeout.
The sophomore went the distance to help Pine Bluff defeat Malvern, 9-1 in five innings, to advance to the championship game of the Los Toritos Spring Break Tournament.
Jones gave up two hits, four walks and a hit-by-pitch, and limited the Leopards to one unearned run.
“He gave us an opportunity to win the game,” Zebras coach Ryan Stinson said. “He came in and threw strikes and let our defense make plays behind him.
“I thought he did a really good job for his first time.”
Malvern drew first blood against Jones and Pine Bluff in the second inning.
With two outs, Jake Golden came in to score on an error by third baseman Jaylon Deshazier.
Pine Bluff answered with two runs in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth to end the game early.
The Zebras used their speed to put pressure on the Leopards’ defense. Malvern didn’t handle the pressure well as five errors led to seven of Pine Bluff’s nine runs.
Malvern starter Colton Johnson had eight strikeouts but was chased after 3 1/3 innings.
“We believe our strong part is our baserunning,” Stinson said. “We try and limit our strikeouts and put the ball in play on the ground.
“We try and put it in play and put the pressure on them and see what happens.”
Pine Bluff entered the fifth inning needing four runs to end the game early. The Zebras rolled off six straight singles to end the game. Fittingly, it was a hit by Jones that brought in Adam Graham to end the game.
“We did a good job putting the ball in play,” Stinson said. “We just trying to make good progress and be consistent.”
The win means that Pine Bluff will play in a championship game for the second straight week.
The Zebras hope Monday’s game against the winner of Saturday’s Parker’s Chapel/Star City game goes better than the title game of the Billy Bock Classic, which they lost 12-2 to White Hall.
“They are both good ballclubs,” Stinson said of his possible opponents. “Coach (Scott) Johnson is a product of Pine Bluff High.
“I don’t know much about Parker’s Chapel, but I know their program is very rich in tradition.”