All the hard work and effort came to fruition for the Pine Bluff Tigers, who defeated Camden Arkansas Pulpwood 7-3 at the 19-under Dixie Majors State Tournament held on Eddie Bryan Field at Seabrook Family Christian Center on Monday night.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Pine Bluff head coach Ernest Wooten said. “It’s surreal. To win the state championship in the Senior Babe Ruth and two weeks later win the state championship in Dixie League, it’s just an awesome feeling.”
Aaron McDonald came back after just one day of rest to lead the Tigers to the championship. He earned the win allowing three hits and three runs (all earned) with six walks and four strikeouts in six innings.
“My mindset was just to come out and throw strikes,” McDonald said. “I wanted to give my defense a chance to play the defense that I know they can do and just try to help my team win a championship.”
McDonald did just that and more as his defense played well behind him committing just three errors, while Jaylen Jackson came in the seventh inning and shut the game down.
“That was an awesome performance,” Wooten said of McDonald. “The guy hit one over at the first bat, but that’s part of the game. He settled in after that and I can’t say enough about the defense either.”
Throughout the tournament, the Tigers have had to fight back after being down, and Monday’s game was no exception.
After Pine Bluff went scoreless in the top half of the opening inning, Camden struck the scoreboard quickly. Leadoff hitter Trevor Rucker hit his second home run of the tournament on the third pitch he saw from McDonald over the left field fence to give Arkansas Pulpwood a 1-0 lead.
McDonald would only give up one more hit through the next five innings.
Pine Bluff tied the game up in the fourth inning when Jackson hit an RBI single to score Trevor Langford, and the Tigers took the lead for the first time of the night in the fifth when they manufactured a run with help from two errors by Camden.
The sixth inning proved to be the turning point however, as Pine Bluff added some breathing room. A fly out started the inning, but was followed up by a single from Adam Graham. After an infield single from Lanford put two on, Jackson stepped up to the plate.
“I just wanted to hit the ball,” Jackson said. “A base hit is all I was going for. If it goes out, it goes out. If it goes far, it goes far.”
Jackson proceeded to take a one-strike pitch over the centerfielder’s head as he reached second base standing up while Graham and Langford scored easily.
The Tigers added another run in the inning with an RBI groundout from Kirel Young and limited Camden to just two runs in the seventh inning as Jackson came on to end the game with a strikeout, as a dog pile formed near the pitcher’s mound.
“All our hard work has paid off,” McDonald said. “It’s finally paying off and I love it. We’re just blessed.”
“I love it,” Jackson said of winning the championship. “We just wanted to win. That’s our mindset, is to beat anybody we play.”
Jackson ended the night 2 for 4 with a run scored and three RBIs, while Langford added a 2-for-3 performance with two runs scored. Rucker led Camden finishing 1 for 4 with a run scored and two RBIs.
Pine Bluff will head to the World Series starting next weekend, and Wooten said it’s a great moment.
“We are just happy,” he said. “It’s a good feeling and I’m just proud of my fans and my kids, and I have the greatest coaching staff you could ask for.”
Camden 6, Seabrook 2
Earlier Monday, Camden won the battle of the third inning and received a complete-game performance from Dalton O’Donnell to eliminate Seabrook from the Dixie Major tournament.
The third inning proved to have all the fireworks as Seabrook took an early 2-0 lead on a two-RBI single from Adrian Alford. Camden, playing as the home team, answered right back when they scored three runs on three errors by Seabrook.
The errors proved costly as Camden went on to add a run in the fourth and two runs in the sixth to win going away. Camden also stranded 11 runners throughout the game while Seabrook stranded five.
Alford led Wingstop with a 1-for-2 performance with two RBIs.
O’Donnell earned the win as he finished with the complete game for Camden with four strikeouts.