Matthew Branham was a one-man wrecking Saturday as visiting J.I. Burton added to Harlan County’s early-season struggles with an 8-3 victory.
Branham overcame seven errors to earn the win on the mound, giving up three runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings before having to leave when he surpassed the 120-pitch mark. Branham may have been even more impressive at the plate, doubling off the fence off Harlan County ace Jared Sizemore for an RBI double in the fourth inning, then adding a two-run homer to center in a four-run sixth inning against Caleb Carmical.
Harlan County’s punchless offense collected only five singles, two each by Dylan Cornett and Sean Johnson and one by Brendan Rutherford. The Bears missed numerous scoring opportunities with the errors and seven walks leading to only three runs.
Sizemore limited Burton to two runs on three hits through the first four innings, striking out 10 and walking none, but left with a 2-1 deficit after giving up two runs in the fourth inning. Austin Johnson singled and scored on Branham’s double. Branham eventually scored after a wild pitch and passed ball.
Harlan County took the lead with two runs in the fifth inning, aided by two errors and an RBI single by Cornett.
Burton went back on top with four runs in the sixth inning. Derrick Allen had a two-out, two run single. One run scored on an error and another scored on a balk.
Austin Johnson doubled to open the seventh inning, and the Bears elected to pitch to Branham with a base open. The decision backfired as Branham drove a pitch over the fence.
Johnson had three hits for J.I. Burton (1-0), which is based in Norton, Va. Branham and Nick Godsey had two hits each. Allen and Skyler Williams added one single each.
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at home against Hazard. The Bears will travel to Clay County on Thursday.
J.I. Burton, Va.* 000* 204* 2* — 8 9 7
Harlan County* 001* 020* 0* — 3 5 1
Branham and Jones: Sizemore, Nease (5), Carmical (6) and Rutherford. WP —Branham (1-0). LP — Nease.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134