Zebras nearly shut out Wolves

The Pine Bluff Zebras scored eight runs on nine hits and three pitchers combined to allow just one unearned run in an 8-1 win over Lake Hamilton in 7A/6A-South Conference action at Taylor Field on Friday.

“Overall, I thought we did very good,” Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said. “I thought we played well. We were consistent on defense and we had good pitching and we got some better hitting today.”

The Zebras’ pitching staff allowed six hits but left them scattered throughout the game as they stranded 11 Lake Hamilton baserunners. Pine Bluff starting pitcher J’Marlos Johnson pitched five innings while allowing four hits with one run and two strikeouts as he induced a lot of fly balls and groundouts.

“He’s a senior and he has been through the big games,” Stinson said of Johnson. “He knows what to do and he just works. He came out of basketball. He had a broken hand and he battled back from that. He continues to work and continues to give us what we need for this ballclub.”

Relief pitchers Michael Roberts and Brandon Lowe combined to pitch two innings while giving up just two hits with no runs and two strikeouts as Lowe ended the game with a looking strikeout.

“Our relief pitchers came in and did well,” Stinson said. “That’s all we ask of them. We tell them to throw strikes and if they hit it, we’ll play good defense behind them and let it fall where it may.”

Pine Bluff (10-8, 3-6 in 7A/6A South) jumped out to an early lead in the first as they have many times this year.

Leadoff hitter Braylen Jones worked a walk to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Adam Graham, an infield single by Kacy Higgins put runners on the corner with one out. Later in the inning, Higgins stole second base and Jones scored when the ball got away from the shortstop to give the Zebras a 1-0 lead.

The Zebras added three more runs in the third inning to get some breathing room. With runners at the corners, Ti’Montai Bolden connected with an RBI single through the right side and Tyler Smith followed up with a two-RBI double to centerfield to give the Zebras a 4-0 lead.

The Zebras added two more runs in the fourth inning on RBIs from Jaylon DeShazier and Johnson with help from some terrific baserunning as the Zebras stole seven bases throughout the game.

“That really helps us to try and open up some holes for the offense,” Stinson said of the aggressive base running. “We have some guys with a little speed who can move around the bases. That helps us at the plate, so I thought that was a good deal.”

Pine Bluff added two more runs in the sixth inning with one run coming from an RBI double by DeShazier and the other run from an error by Lake Hamilton (3-8 in 7A/6A South) as the Wolves committed three errors during the ballgame.

Higgins ended the day 2 for 3 with three runs scored while DeShazier and Smith led the team with two RBIs apiece. Alec Young led Lake Hamilton at the plate with a 1-for-3 performance with the only run scored for the Wolves.