The Harlan Green Dragons were unable to find an answer for Middlesboro’s Lucas Crawford in the opening round of the 52nd District Tournament on Monday. The junior pitcher allowed just three hits in a complete-game gem to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 7-0 victory over host Harlan and into the district title game.
“(Lucas)has been pretty solid for us, especially as a sophomore. We have a lot of confidence in our pitching staff. We feel like we have three strong pitchers going into the tournament,” said Middlesboro coach John Smith. “We don’t want to overlook anybody, and I told (Lucas) today that he’d have the ball for us. He threw strikes and the defense made plays for him.”
Both teams struggled to generate much offensively in the first two innings. Harlan sent just seven batters to the plate, while Middlesboro had eight.
After a scoreless inning for the Green Dragons in the top of the third inning, the Yellow Jackets’ bats came alive in the bottom half.
Matthew Mike started the inning with a single to right field. Jake Brock advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher. Jessie Hoskins and Brian Hale loaded the bases after both were hit by a pitch. John Millett forced in the first run when he drew a walk. Hoskins scored on a throwing error by catcher Austin Miller. Brandon Hale drove in Brian Hale with a single up the middle of the infield. Brandon Hale and Tyler Prater each scored on a left field double from Crawford to make it 5-0.
“We got a little frustrated early on and were anxious. We were going at some pitches and not sitting back,” said Smith. “We calmed down in the third inning and got some walks and hit some balls and put some runs on the board.”
Middlesboro made it 6-0 with a run in the fourth inning.
Brian Hale reached base first after being hit by a pitch with two outs. Millett drove in the runner with a double to the fence in center field.
The Yellow Jackets closed the scoring with another run in the sixth inning.
Brock reached base after being hit by a pitch. He later scored on a single from Brian Hale.
Crawford helped himself out at the plate, delivering a double and a single to lead the Jackets. Millett contributed a double, while, Brock, Mike, Brian Hale, Brandon Hale and Jacob Schneider each added a single.
Tye Patrick, Corey Burns and Dylan McNiel each had a single to pace the Harlan offense.
“We just didn’t hit the ball. We put the ball in play, but nothing went through,” said Burns. “But, I’m proud of this team. We have battled all year long, and I thought we did a good job today. They had beat us pretty good the two times before. We came out and didn’t have anything to lose and gave them all we could.”
Miller struck out one batter, while allowing two hits and issuing three walks in 2 1/3 innings in the loss. Freshman Caleb Hogue had a pair of strikeouts and gave up four hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings of relief. McNiel allowed two hits and one walk in the sixth inning.
Harlan closes the season at 20-13.
“We have worked hard from day one. We wanted to go farther in the district, but we are going to work hard again next year and try it again,” Burns said.
Middlesboro (20-10) will returns to action today in the 52nd District Championship.
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Harlan 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Middlesboro 005 101 x — 7 8 2
Miller, Hogue (3) McNiel (6) and Patrick, Miller (3); Crawford and Prater. WP — Crawford. LP — Miller.