At the end of last season, the Pine Bluff Tigers felt like they had a pretty good opportunity to do well this year.
“We felt like it was our turn to shine and do something special,” manager Ernest Wooten said.
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Senior Babe Ruth Southwest Regional in Texas, the Tigers will head this weekend to Ozark, Alabama, to compete in the Dixie Majors World Series.
“There will be some high level competition down there,” Wooten said. “… But it is baseball and I believe we are up for the challenge.”
The Tigers qualified for the World Series after winning the Dixie League state championship.
“We don’t focus on what other teams do,” Wooten said. “We focus on what we have and what we do.”
Wooten said even though the Tigers finished fourth in last weekend’s regional, he was pleased with the effort put forth by his team.
“In the first game, we had a couple of mistakes and lost 4-3,” Wooten said. “And all four runs were unearned.
“But overall I thought we played pretty well. I was really pleased with them and really proud of them.”
The strength of this year’s team has primarily been its defense and pitching, according to Wooten.
“Our defense is awesome,” Wooten said. “All of our pitchers know if they throw strikes, we have a real good defense backing them up.”
Because the team is coming off a weekend where they played four games in two days, the Tigers have been using this time to rest their arms.
But in a normal situation, most practices consist of working on pitching and defense.
“That’s the key thing we work on,” Wooten said.
Wooten did say the Tigers have been struggling at the plate, as of late.
“We haven’t been hitting well as a team,” Wooten said. “We haven’t been hitting in bunches.
“But once that comes back around, we are going to be a tough team.”
Wooten added, “Hitting has been a weakness the last couple of days.”
But a lot of that is due to the higher level of competition.
“I’ve always believed that good pitching beats good hitting, but we must step up,” Wooten said. “Once (our hitting) comes around, we are going to be okay.”
The double elimination tournament begins Saturday and lasts until Wednesday.
“Last weekend, we faced some tough competition, but I was pleased with how they responded,” Wooten said.
Most of the guys on the Tigers have been playing together since they were 11 years old and either attend Watson Chapel or Pine Bluff High.
“To come and buy back into our system,” Wooten said. “So far, so good. We haven’t had any problems.
“It has been great.”