Wingstop, PB Tigers set for wood bat tourney

The Wingstop and Pine Bluff Tigers baseball teams missed out on a summer-opening tournament this past weekend, because of rain in the Nashville area.

The two teams, though, were able to play each other on Tuesday night at Taylor Field in preparation for this weekend’s Jim Hill Wood Bat Invitational.

The 9-7 nine-inning victory for Wingstop was a chance for both teams’ pitchers to get some work before the tournament commences with Wingstop playing Hamburg (17- to 19-year-olds) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Eddie Bryan Field.

“I had five different pitchers throw,” Wingstop coach Johnny Skillen said. “I capped them at 40 pitches, because some haven’t thrown very much.

“I really watch the pitch count. When we get to the state tournament they limit them to 105 pitches. So I like to keep an eye on the pitch count.

“Some of these kids are playing college ball and some have another year of high school left. I’m not going to mess anybody’s arm up in a summer league.”

Tigers coach Ernest Wooten said he threw four pitchers last night and said he thinks is squad has about seven players who can pitch. Wooten added that he likes the overall size of this year’s team.

“We used to have about 13 or 14 guys,” he said. “I started coaching this team when they were 9-year-olds. As they got older a few players moved and like we have two guys off interning.

“So having 17 players helps a lot.”

The numbers are also there for Wingstop, as Skillen estimated he’d have about 16 players available for any given game. Skillen added that it’s too early to tell how the season will go, but did say he thinks the talent level of his players is impressive.

“I believe this team is going to be successful,” he said. “At the very least, the overall talent level is there.

“In terms of overall talent, this is probably one of the best teams I’ve had in 43 years.”

Wooten said he liked most of what he saw out of his Tigers, who play Crossett at 10 p.m. Friday, in their game against Wingstop.

“Offensively, we did pretty good,” he said. “We hit one homer at Taylor Field, which is good. We just left a bunch of runners on base.

“We just could not get the timely hits.”

Skillen said he thinks this year’s tournament has an impressive group of teams.

“We know that Hamburg should be good,” he said. “Camden always has a good team, or at least the older team is always good and last year they had a really good team. Hamburg, I believe, is basically a high school team.

“Nashville, you never really know about them. Some years they’re good, other year’s not so much. It’s really a toss-up. The Pine Bluff Tigers are a really good team, too.

“It should be a really good tournament.”

Wooten agreed and said his players are excited for the opportunity.

“It’s a big deal for them,” he said. “A lot of them enjoy playing with the wood bats. It’s a nice change of pace for them.

“There’s going to be a lot of good teams in the tournament, and our players are up for the challenge.”