The hits keep coming for the Harlan County Lady Bears, who collected 16 on Tuesday and topped the 10-run mark for the seventh time in seven games in a 14-0 win over visiting Bell County in the district opener for both teams.
“I’ve seen teams hit like this late in the season, but this time of year pitching is usually ahead of hitting,” Harlan County coach Tim McElyea said. “It’s amazing the contact we’re getting. I just hope and pray that it continues.”
Nikki Creech and Destinee Jenkins had a triple and single each to lead the Lady Bears’ offense. Farren Clark and Erin Cornett singled twice each. Jessie Johnson tripled. Kacie Russell, Tia King and Rhileigh Alred each added doubles. Regan Caudill, Emily Long, Haley Blakley and Taylor Johnson added one single each.
Kacie Russel pitched one shutout inning, giving up two hits, before McElyea started going to his reserves. Alred, a freshman, made an impressive varsity pitching debut as she retired all nine hitters she faced to earn her first win.
“She throws a lot of off-speed pitches, and she got a lot of pop ups and ground balls,” McElyea said. “I may have surprised her a little by getting her in the game, but we may have found something there.”
Clark and Creech opened the game with bunt singles, then both came home on Jenkins’ triple to deep left.
“Bell’s down with a lot of young players,” McElyea said. “I decided to bunt early because sometimes we have a tendency to pop it up against slow pitching. I wanted to get some people on base because I believe hitters concentrate better when runners are in scoring position.”
Russell followed with an RBI double to center, bringing in courtesy runner T.C. Somersall. King doubled to right, driving home Mikalyn Foutch. Jessie Johnson was safe on an error for another run, and Kate Evans’ groundout brought in Lainey Cox, who had walked. Clark singled home the seventh run of the inning, and Creech tripled home the eighth with her line drive past third base. Jenkins singled up the middle for her third RBI of the inning.
HCHS added three more runs in the second inning as Blakley singled, then scored on Jessie Johnson’s triple. Alred doubled home a run and came around to scored on two errors on the same play for a 12-0 lead.
Harlan County’s lead grew to 14-0 in the third inning. Cornett singled and scored on Long’s single. After walks to Brandi Simpson and Sidney Kelly, another run scored when Alred reached base on an error.
The game ended via the 15-run mercy rule as Caudill and Cornett opened with singles before Taylor Johnson’s two-out hit brought home Caudill.
Meghan Mills and Gabby Taylor had hits for the 1-4 Lady Cats. Makaya Baker pitched a complete game.
Harlan County (7-0) will return to action Thursday at Leslie County.
Bell County* 000* 0* —* 0 2 6
Harlan County* 932* 1* —* 15 16 0
Baker and Taylor; Russell and King. WP — Alred (1-0). LP —Baker.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134