By John Henson
HAZARD — Aggressiveness on the base paths helped the Harlan All-Stars build an early 3-0 in the Area 4 Tournament championship game Monday against Hazard.
That same aggressiveness proved costly later as Harlan tried to come from behind. Harlan lost three runners on the bases, a devastating statistic in a 6-4 loss to Hazard.
“That was my fault. I sent them when I should have held them,” Harlan coach Joe Freeman said. “Our guys did a good job hitting the ball. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They are a great group of kids.”
Three Harlan players had two hits each to lead the offense, including leadoff hitter Antonio Roman with a double and single and Jacob Thompson and Layne Jones with two singles each. Jordan Steele contributed a double, and Matt Brown added a single.
Hazard was limited to five hits, a double by Donovan Stidham and singles by Dustin Fields, Wade Pelfrey, Andrew Ford and Jacob Blank.
Jarett Napier claimed the win on the mound as he gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings. Pelfrey retired all three batters he faced to earn the save.
Harlan picked up an early run against Napier as Thompson singled with two outs and hustled home on Steele’s double. Steele was cut down after rounding second base too far when Thompson scored.
Brown and Roman led off the second inning with singles. Brown was thrown out at the plate on Harris’ grounder back to the mound, even though it appeared the speedy Brown had slid under the tag. Roman scored when Harris went to second on the throw, and Harris came home on Thompson’s hit for a 3-0 lead.
Hazard broke through against Harris in the bottom of the second inning as Napier led off with a walk, moved to second on Blank’s hit and scored on a single by Fields. Harris proceeded to strike out the next three Hazard hitters, but two wild pitches mixed between the strikes allowed Hazard to tie the game.
Braxton Amburgey walked and Ford singled with one out in the fourth inning and both came around to score on Stidham’s double to the fence in center. Fields’ RBI ground out added another insurance run.
Shane Hagle walked to lead off the Harlan fifth and came home when Roman doubled. Roman was cut down trying to stretch it into a triple with no outs, and Harlan never threatened again as Napier and Pelfrey retired the final five hitters to preserve the victory.
Hazard advances to the District 4 Tournament next week as the Area 4 champion. Harlan will play Tri-City on Tuesday at 8 p.m. for second place and the other berth in the district tournament.
Harlan 102 010 — 4 8 1
Hazard 003 30x — 6 5 1
Harris, Roman (4), Steele (5) and Gray; Napier, Pelfrey (6) and Fields. WP — Napier. LP — Harris. Sv — Pelfrey.