After watching a win slip away two days earlier when Harlan County scored three runs in the seventh inning for a 3-2 victory, the Harlan Green Dragons were determined to make amends in the rematch.
Harlan (11-6) turned the tables on their county rivals, also rallying from a 2-0 deficit on the way to a 7-2 victory. It was the first win for Harlan at HCHS in school history and should gain the Dragons some respect around the region. Even though Harlan was the first team in the region to reach 10 wins, the Dragons weren’t ranked among the regional favorites.
“It feels good to win,” Harlan coach Robbie Burns said. “Winning here on their field will help, but we’re just worried about getting ready for May. I thought we played real well against (HCHS pitcher) Jared (Sizemore) the other day. I have all the respect in the world for him and coach (John) Lewis and his team, but we played well enough to be 2-0 in the district.”
The Dragons dominated in every phase of the game, outhitting Harlan County 10-4 and doing a much better job on the bases and on defense. Harlan County had only three errors but watched several bloops off Harlan bats drop in for hits while the Dragons were making all the plays, including a nice running catch by center fielder Noah Busroe on a blast hit by Gage Burkhart in the seventh inning.
“Our defense was good,” Burns said. “If the ball is in the air, Noah will get to it 90 percent of the time. Kilian Ledford does a good job in left. We have a dandy outfield.”
Harlan County (7-8) also struggled to come up with clutch hits, leaving eight runners on base including two runners in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
“We left quite a few on base,” Lewis said. “You can’t take Harlan lightly. We didn’t have any life. You’ve got to have a little grit. Maybe they will have it when it counts in May.”
Junior righthander Austin Wilson ran his record to 4-0 as he gave up two runs on three hits four innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. Holden Williams, a sophomore righthander, shut the Bears out over the final three innings to earn the save. He gave up one hit while striking out five and walking one.
“I will give all the credit to coach (Shawn) Miller,” Burns said. “He pulled me to the side and suggested we go with Williams. He shut them down, and Wilson did his job. I give all the credit to coach Miller for that.”
Brendan Rutherford, a junior righthander, suffered the loss as he allowed five runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings, with three strikeouts and one walk. Caleb Carmical allowed two runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. Cameron Nease struck out one and walked two as he recorded the final two outs.
Caleb Hogue, Busroe and Pedro Roman led the Harlan offense with two hits each. Nick Jarvis, Wilson, Ledford and Antonio Roman had one hit each.
Rutherford, Burkhart, Will Scott and Gabe Price had one single each for the Bears.
Harlan failed to capitalize on a great scoring opportunity in the first inning after Hogue and Busroe led off with singles. The Dragons had runners on second and third with one out when Nease went into foul territory at third to catch a pop up hit by Jarvis. Hogue tried to score on the play but Rutherford was able to beat him to the plate and tag him out while running backwards.
Harlan County manufactured a run in the bottom of the inning after Rutherford was hit by a pitch. Courtesy runner Garry Henson moved to second on a balk, then stole third before scoring a ground ball hit by Burkhart.
HCHS added another run in the second inning after loading the bases when Nease was hit by a pitch, Scott singled and Hunter Nease walked. Gabe Price hit into a fielder’s choice to drive home Nease for a 2-0 lead.
Harlan went on top in the third inning. Antonio Roman and Hogue led off with singles, and Roman scored when Busroe laid down a suicide squeeze for a hit. Andrew Saylor grounded to Devin Rodrigues at second, and Rodrigues made a wild throw to the plate for two runs. The Bears gave up another run when Jarvis bunted back to the mound and Rutherford threw the ball high to the plate. Ledford added an RBI single against Carmical.
Harlan picked up two insurance runs in the seventh inning with the help of three walks and a hit batsman. Busroe opened the inning with a walk, stole second and scored on Jarvis’ hit down the right-field line. Nease came on to pitch and loaded the bases with two walks, then hit Ledford with a pitch to force in another run.
Harlan County travels to North Laurel on Friday. Harlan plays at North Laurel on Saturday.
Harlan* 005* 000* 2* — 7 10 1
Harlan County* 110* 000* 0* — 2 4 3
Wilson and Jarvis; Rutherford, Carmical (3) and Casolari, Rutherford (3). WP — Wilson (4-0). LP — Rutherford (0-3). Sv — Williams.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134