In the top of the first inning, Hermitage second baseman Colten Franklin walked and advanced to third on a single by Collin Wilkerson.
Franklin was left stranded at third when Bradley Day went down looking, and it would be the only time Pine Bluff pitcher Jaylon Deshazier allowed anyone to advance past second base.
Deshazier, a freshman, threw a five-inning, complete-game shutout to help the Zebras to an 11-0 win over the Hermits in the first round of the Billy Bock Classic at Taylor Field.
“That was a confidence booster,” Pine Bluff coach Ryan Stinson said of escaping the first-inning jam. “I think that gave him a little confidence in himself.
“We’re so young, everything you do well is a confidence booster.”
After the rocky first inning, Deshazier settled in with three straight one-two-three innings. The freshman allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out six.
“He’s young but he stayed consistent,” Stinson said. “We were able to play good defense behind him.
“It’s a great confidence boost for him and the team.”
Pine Bluff (3-0) entered the top of the fifth with an 11-0 lead and looked to close the game out.
Corbin Sistrunk, though, led off the fifth with a single. He was forced out on a fielder’s choice with Cody Vines reaching on the play. Vines advanced to second on a wild pitch, but a strikeout and a groundout to short ended the Hermitage (1-2) threat and the game.
Hermits coach Chase Cleveland, son of Dollarway coach Greg Cleveland, was glad his kids were able to experience playing at Taylor Field.
“I wanted them to see something they haven’t seen before,” he said. “… I wanted to see us compete.
“I didn’t think the stage would be too big for us.”
Pine Bluff advances to the championship semifinals to face the winner of Thursday’s late game between Harrison and Stuttgart at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
The Zebras will play for no worse than third place on Saturday. If Pine Bluff loses on Friday, the ceremony honoring PBHS’ 10 state championship baseball teams will take place before the 2 p.m. third-place game. If the Zebras win Friday, the ceremony will be before the 4:30 p.m. championship game.
On Thursday night, Pine Bluff jumped out early and scored in every inning off of Hermitage starter Kentrez Davis.
“I didn’t think our pitcher pitched bad,” Cleveland said. “We didn’t play the best defense behind him, but he’s a sharp kid.”
Pine Bluff tallied three runs in the bottom of the first.
Second baseman Braylen Jones walked, stole second and came in to score on an error. Jordan O’Quinn also walked and stole second base. The first baseman scored when Gealander Harris III was hit by a pitch. Deshazier, who reached on an error, came in on a wild pitch to cap the first-inning outburst.
“It’s always great to get runs in any inning,” Stinson said. “To get runs in the first inning and put the pressure on the other team is a plus.”
In the second inning, Pine Bluff’s speed was on full display.
With one out, shortstop Adam Graham was hit by a pitch. With Jones at the dish, the senior stole second to move into scoring position.
Jones struck out swinging and the ball got away from the catcher. Even though the ball was just about 15 feet away from home plate, the catcher couldn’t find it and Graham came into score all the way from second.
“Adam is a veteran,” Stinson said. “He understood what was happening and took advantage.
“… That’s just being a senior and knowing what’s going on.”
Watson Chapel JV 14, Dollarway 13
The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning, but the Wildcats clawed their way back to earn the walkoff win.
Chapel scored single runs in the first two innings and seven runs in the third to pull within 11-9. Dollarway tacked on two in the top of the fifth, but Chapel answered with four in the home half to knot the score.
Trenton Marshall came up with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Javione Steward led Chapel’s offense, going 3 for 4 at the plate. Blake Phillips and Cecil Roberts both went 2 for 2.
Aaron Frazier got the win. He came in to close out the first inning and then threw the remaining six innings with three walks, a hit by pitch and 11 strikeouts.
Rayshon Blake took the loss for the Cardinals. No Dollarway player had more than one hit.