After a long 13-year drought without winning a playoff game, the Pine Bluff Zebras came into the first round of the 6A state baseball tournament on Thursday to fight back and defeat the Russellville Cyclones by a score of 5-4.
The Zebras were the fifth seed from the east division, while Russellville was the fourth seed from the west division. The win advances Pine Bluff into the second round to play Jonesboro at 3 p.m. today.
Pine Bluff struck first in the second inning to start things off. Rod Stinson Jr. got a base hit to credit his team with the first hit of the game. After a steal from pinch runner Brandon Thomas, senior Xavier Smith hit a double to drive in a run to put the Zebras on the score board.
With the score remaining the same in the fourth inning, Ryan Meador grounded out for an RBI, and Ryan Tally doubled for an RBI to help the Cyclones score two runs to take the lead over Pine Bluff.
The Zebras would bounce back to tie the game in the sixth inning, as Jaylon Deshazier scored off an RBI double by Smith.
In the top half of the final inning, Wes Hunt and Brandon Little both reached bases for the go-ahead run. Deshazier was intentionally walked to load the bases. Stinson Jr. came up to bat next, pounding the first pitch he saw into the gap in right field for a double to clear the bases and give his team a 5-2 lead.
However, Russellville kept fighting on until the end. With two outs, the Cyclones got base hits from Talley and Cole Dawson to put runners on base before they were both driven in by Bryson George on a triple to cut Pine Bluff's lead down to 5-4. Carter Thessing then popped out to left field to end the game.
Deshazier pitched a complete game for Pine Bluff, allowing five hits while striking out six batters.
Joel Barker was the pitcher for Russellville. Barker pitched a complete game also, striking out four batters and allowing nine hits.
Smith led the Zebras at the plate with three hits and two RBI's. Stinson Jr. and Hunt both had two hits a piece for Pine Bluff.
Pine Bluff's head coach Ryan Stinson was pleased with the victory, as he earned his first post-season win for the Zebras. "It feels great," Stinson said about the win on Thursday. "But I feel even better for our kids for working so hard to get to this point. We kept playing, we kept battling. Jaylon threw a good game. Our guys just stayed patience and the momentum came our way."
Stinson Jr.'s go-ahead three-run double in the final inning was the momentum changer for Pine Bluff and also helped win the game.
"It's good, I'm happy for him," Stinson said about Stinson Jr.'s go-ahead double. "He hadn't been hitting the ball really good the last couple of games, but he stayed patient and he came through with a big hit."