After opening the district slate with a pair of losses, the Harlan County Lady Bears have reminded the rest of the 52nd District there is a reason they are the three-time defending champions. The Lady Bears earned their third straight district win on Thursday, knocking off visiting Bell County 8-1.
“We let one get away from us down at Bell. But, we have come back pretty strong. It is a big district win. We needed this one,” said Harlan County coach Tim McElyea.
Katie Johnson didn’t need much help on the mound. The senior right-hander recorded eight strikeouts, while allowing just four hits and one walk in the complete-game victory.
“She is getting a little healthier. Her pitching hand is starting to straighten up, and her shin splints seem to be doing a little better,” McElyea said.
Johnson received plenty of support behind her, as the Lady Bears didn’t commit an error in the field.
“The defense has tightened up. It has come a long way since the last time we played Bell,” said McElyea. “The defense was the main thing. It was really nice to see a goose egg on the errors.”
Harlan County struck first with one run in the second inning.
Farren Clark led off the inning with a walk. Clark stole second base and scored on a single by Mallory Johnson.
The Lady Bears tacked on three more runs in the third inning.
Savannah Sergent started the offense with a single to left field. Sarah Evans then reached on a fielder’s choice to third. Clark loaded the bases with another walk. Chyanna Harris drove in the first two runs of the inning with a double to the fence in center field. Jessie Johnson then singled to bring home Clark. Jessie Johnson scored when Kaitlyn Stittums delivered a base hit up the middle.
Bell County closed the gap to 5-1 with a run in the top of the sixth inning.
Courtney Baker reached base with a leadoff walk. Hillary Lowe advanced the runner with a single to shallow center. Baker scored when Morgan Garnett hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
Harlan County put the game out of reach with three runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Chyanna Harris advanced on a fielder’s choice. Tia King then reached on a walk. Kaitlyn Stittums drove in the first run of the inning with a two-out single to short. Katie Johnson walked to load the bases. King scored when Bridget Robinson singled to third base. Sergent forced in the final run of the game with a single to center field.
Harris had a double and a single to lead Harlan County at the plate. Stittums and Sergent each added two singles. Katie Johnson doubled. Robinson, Clark, Jessie Johnson and Mallory Johnson each added a single.
“We hit the ball well, but we still left a lot of people on base. I have shifted hitters back and forth. We are starting to get some pretty good balance,” said McElyea.
Shasta Centers recorded a pair of singles to pace the Bell County offense. Lowe and Whitney Mullins each added a single.
Garnett struck out one batter, while issuing seven walks in the complete-game effort for Bell County.
Harlan County (11-9 overall, 3-2 district) returns to action today in a double-header at Hazard. The Lady Bears will face Magoffin County at 5:30 p.m., before taking on Belfry at 9 p.m. Bell County (3-9 overall, 2-3 district) will travel to Clay County on Tuesday.
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Bell County 000 001 0 — 1 4 2
Harlan County 014 003 x — 8 11 0
Garnett and Sanders; K. Johnson and Robinson. WP — K. Johnson. LP — Garnett.