MIDDLESBORO — An offense that was too good to be true early in the season when the Harlan County Lady Bears topped the 10-run mark in their first seven games has come back to earth.
After winning its first 11 games, Harlan County (15-4) has split its last eight and fell 4-1 to the host Lady Jackets on Saturday at Middlesboro in the final game of the Billy Joe Idol Memorial Tournament. The Lady Bears opened the tournament with wins over Lee, Va., and Williamsburg.
“We have been facing better arms with the Five Star Showcase last week, and we are struggling a little on pitches on the outer half,” Harlan County coach Tim McElyea said. “We’re in a little bit of a funk right now, letting a few strikes go by on the outer half.”
Junior Madison Shields allowed six hits to earn the win, striking out three and walking one.
Middlesboro (13-3) broke through with two runs in the third inning as Laura Durham and Taylor Moyers, the top two hitters in the order, had one-out singles. Lauren Spurlock drove in the game’s first run with a ground out back to pitcher Destinee Jenkins. Erica Gambrel doubled home the second run.
Spurlock added some insurance in the fifth inning with a two-run homer to right field after Durham led off the inning with a single.
Spurlock and Durham each had two hits to lead the Middlesboro offense. Gambrel, Moyers, Bailey Hensley and Sarah Brooks added one hit each.
Harlan County scored its only run in the fifth inning as Kacie Russell had a leadoff single and Hannah Johnson came through with a two-out triple to right field, driving home courtesy runner Mikalyn Foutch.
Jenkins struck out four and walked none as she suffered only her third loss of the season.
Johnson led the Lady Bears with a triple and single. Farren Clark, Nikki Creech, Russell and Tia King had one hit each.
Harlan County will play two district games this week, Tuesday at Harlan and Thursday at home against Middlesboro.
“This tournament was good for us. I’m not real concerned. We’re all right,” McElyea said. “Taking one on the chin like this hurts, but it’s our third game of the day. I’m not too concerned. We’ll see Middlesboro again next Thursday.”
The Lady Jackets will travel to Bell County on Monday for a showdown at home Tuesday against 13th Region favorite North Laurel.
Harlan County* 000* 010* 0* — 1 6 1
Middlesboro * 002* 020* x* — 4 8 0
Jenkins and King; Shields and Durham. WP — Shields. LP — Jenkins (11-3).
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134