The Pine Bluff Zebras (8-16) recognized four seniors Tuesday in their last game at Taylor Field. On senior day, the Zebras fell short to the Benton Panthers (15-9, 6-4) by a final of 9-2.
The four seniors for the Zebras are Wes Hunt, Cameron Crane, James Wilkes and Kaleb Taylor.
The Zebras put up a fight through five innings, but in the sixth inning Benton sealed the deal. Pine Bluff Head Coach Ryan Stinson went four deep into his bullpen as pitching has been a problem for them this season.
Pine Bluff scored their first run in the bottom of the first inning. Hunt, the lead-off hitter, got on base by a hit by pitch (HBP) from Benton's Dalton Pugh. Hunt then stole second, and Chris Mack Jr. bunted him over to third. Rod Stinson Jr. then popped one up for a sacrifice fly as Hunt tagged up and scored from third base to put the Zebras up 1-0.
Stinson Jr. got the start on the mound, and through two innings he was solid. Stinson Jr. threw two strikeouts and gave up a hit. In the top of the second, Stinson Jr. helped work Pine Bluff out of a hole as two costly errors put runners on first and second base. Next, Benton's Wes Guerra singled out to left field to load the bases. The Zebras then made a play in the infield to end the inning, and Benton left three on.
That would be it for Stinson Jr. as he was relieved in the top of the third inning by Chris Mack Jr. Benton's starting pitcher Dalton Pugh earned the win by pitching five innings, throwing two strikeouts, while giving up two hits and two runs.
Mack Jr. got off to a good start as he retired the first three Panthers he faced. However, in the top of the fourth, location became a problem for Mack Jr. An HBP loaded the bases for Benton, and soon after they would record two unearned runs. With the bases loaded, a second HBP allowed Benton's runner to score from third. Then Benton's Logan Easterling was walked to give the Panthers their second run. Fortunately for the Zebras, they got out of the inning with no more damage done, as Benton left three on.
In the bottom of the fourth, Pine Bluff's Stinson Jr. recorded the team’s first hit of the game, but it didn't result in a run scored.
That's when Coach Stinson went with his third pitcher, Casen Blount. Due to the high number of walks given up by Pine Bluff, Benton's top four batters got five at-bats. The more they went to the plate the more settled in, and things started to go downhill for the Zebras.
Blount walked the first two batters he faced, and Jared Kelley followed up with an RBI single to push Benton's lead to 3-1.
Pine Bluff would score their final run of the game on an RBI single by David Carroll in the bottom of the fifth. That second hit would end Pugh's day on the mound, and he was relieved by Yates Prickett.
It got ugly for Pine Bluff in the sixth inning, where they gave up six runs. It started with a huge error by Pine Bluff's third baseman that put runners on second and third base with no outs for the Panthers. Benton's Michael Allison jumped all over that opportunity and connected for a two-run RBI double. After two more walks loaded the bases, Stinson pulled Blount for his fourth pitcher, Isiah Mays.
Benton kept their foot on the pedal as Drew Chilton roped one for another two-run RBI double with just one out in the inning. Kelley then popped one up for a sacrifice fly scoring the runner from third. Wes Guerra, who went 3-4 for the game, was responsible for Benton's ninth run as he recorded an RBI double in what was a nightmare sixth inning for Pine Bluff.
Prickett came in and struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth to put the Zebras in a tough spot.
Benton left three on again in the top of the seventh, and getting out of that jam gave the Zebras a little life. However, Prickett shut down their hopes of a seventh-inning comeback as he threw his fifth strikeout to end the game.