HAZARD — Standing almost 6-feet tall and weighing in at around 220 pounds, Jordan Steele casts an intimidating presence on a Little League baseball field, both on the mound and at the plate.
Steele played as dominant as he looked Tuesday, striking out 14 and giving up only one hit while launching a pair of homers to center field as Harlan defeated Tri-City 14-1 to capture second place in the Area 4 Tournament and earn one of eight berths in District 4 competition.
“Absolutely,” said Harlan coach Joe Freeman when asked if Steele was intimidating on the mound, “He would intimidate me.”
Steele recorded all 14 of his outs through 4 2/3 innings with strikeouts, while walking three and hitting one batter. An infield single by Justin Brown in the fourth inning was the only hit for Tri-City, who was limited to one hit on Sunday in a 5-0 first-round loss to Hazard.
“He was on tonight,” said Freeman.
Antonio Roman recorded the final four outs for Harlan, striking out three and walking two.
Steele hit two homers and drove in three runs to lead the Harlan offense. Kobe Burkhart also had a big day at the plate with a triple and double. Jacob Thompson added a double and single. Roman singled twice. The Harlan All-Stars also cut down on the mistakes that cost them in a 6-4 loss to Hazard on Monday.
“This was my team that showed up tonight,” Freeman said. “Last night, I think we had the jitters. This is the way we play right here.”
Harlan got all the runs Steele needed in the first inning as Tri-City made errors on the first three balls put into play. Roman led off with a sharp single and raced to third when the ball skipped past Cade Pennington. C.J. Carruba was unable to corral a sharp grounder off the bat of Jay Harris to produce the first run. Thompson followed with an RBI double to center and came around to score on an errant throw. Steele walked and eventually scored after two wild pitches.
Steele’s solo blast to center with one out in the third inning extended the lead to 5-0.
Burkhart had a bases-clearing three-run double in the fourth inning as Harlan’s advantage grew to 9-0. Roman, who singled, scored on the hit along with Harris, who walked, and Steele, who was safe on an error.
Tri-City broke through for a run in the fourth inning as Eli Estep walked and Brown beat out an infield hit back to Steele. After a double steal, Estep came home on a wild pitch.
Harlan got a run back in the fifth inning as James Chasteen reached base on an error and scored after two wild pitches.
Steele’s two-run blast to center highlighted a four-run Harlan sixth, bringing home Thompson after his leadoff single. James Gray scored on Burkhart’s triple to right, and Burkhart came home on Chasteen’s ground out.
Harlan advances to the District 4 Tournament next week at Corbin.
Harlan 401 414 — 14 8 1
Tri-City 000 100 — 1 1 7
Steele and Gray; Estep, Brown (3) and Collett. WP — Steele. LP — Estep.