HYDEN — Five games and five dominating wins into the season, the Leslie County Lady Eagles are establishing themselves as a contender in the 14th Region.
The Lady Eagles’ fast start is a pleasant surprise for coach Dana Coots.
“We’ve looked really good on offense, which is surprising this early in the season,” said Coots after the Lady Eagles’ 6-1 win Wednesday over visiting Harlan. “We’re playing pretty good defense, and our pitching has been good. I’m a little surprised to be honest. I hope we can keep it up. We just played a good Harlan team. Coach (Scott) Lewis always has them ready to play, and this is a big win for us.”
It was also the closest win for the 5-0 Lady Eagles, who pummeled Whitley County 11-1, Knox Central 13-2, Hazard 12-1 and Buckhorn 25-0 in their first four games of the season.
The fast start has Coots feeling good about his team’s chances of competing in the 14th Region.
“We’re hoping to,” he said. “Estill (County) has won our region several years in a row. Several teams could make a run for it, and we’re hoping we’re one of those teams.”
Leslie County was led on offense by junior right fielder Kendra Hubbard with a triple and single and senior center fielder Jada Estep with a double and single. Senior third baseman Lyndsey Shepherd had an inside-the-park homer. Kailee Mullins, Kaley Collett, Emily Griffith and Kameron Turner added one single each.
Harlan (2-2) collected six hits, one six each by the top six hitters in the order — Jayda Young, Katelyn Burkhart, Ashley Overbay, Madison Brewer, Jessie Cochran and Alyssa Moses.
The Lady Dragons lost three runners on the bases early in the game and missed several opportunities to make plays on defense. It was their second straight loss after two wins to open the season.
“Leslie is pretty solid throughout the lineup,” Lewis said. “We didn’t get to practice yesterday due to some injuries, and we didn’t adjust to the pitching after playing Middlesboro on Monday. We just weren’t hitting the ball, and we didn’t make the plays on defense. We have some work to do.”
Katie Johnson limited Harlan to one run on four hits over four innings, with one strikeout and no walks. Turner allowed one hit in three innings with one strikeout and no walks.
“We have two excellent pitchers,” Coots said. “Katie had to carry the load for us last year because Kameron broke her finger. It’s good to have both of them. Both girls do an excellent job. They are control pitchers.”
The Leslie defense was also flawless, recording 19 outs without an error.
“That’s surprising this early in the year, but it’s a good surprise,” Coots said.
Overbay pitched a complete game for Harlan and was overpowering at times with seven strikeouts and no walks
Estep led off the game with a double and scored when Shepherd’s line drive past fence went all the way to the fence for a two-run inside-the-park homer.
Collett, Griffith and Estep had singles for another run in the second inning and a 3-0 lead.
Hubbard tripled to right in the third inning and scored on Mullins’ hit.
Harlan threatened in the first two innings but came up empty as Young was cut down by Morgan Pugh when she tried to stretch a single into a double. Moses singled in the second inning but was picked off by Collett when she strayed too far off first base.
Burkhart and Overbay led off the fourth for Harlan with hits, and Cochran brought in a run with a two-out single.
Pugh was safe on an error in the bottom of the fourth and scored on Hubbard’s single.
Collett singled to lead off the sixth inning and scored on Turner’s hit.
Leslie County will return to action this weekend in a tournament at Johnson Central High School. Harlan plays at Jackson County on Saturday.
Harlan* 000 100* 0* — 1 5 2
Leslie County* 211* 011* x* — 6 9 0
Overbay and Jenkins; Johnson, Turner (5) and Collett. WP — Johnson. LP — Overbay (1-1). Sv — Turner.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134