Middlesboro locked up the No. 1 seed in the 52nd District tournament on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Harlan. With the win, the Yellow Jackets will most likely meet Bell County in the first round of the district tournament.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve been in this position,” said Middlesboro coach John Smith. “It feels great to be back in the number one spot where we belong.”
Matthew Mike picked up the win for Middlesboro. The senior pitcher finished with seven strikeouts while allowing 11 hits.
“We’re pretty confident in our defense right now. We’re confident in Matthew (Mike) throwing strikes,” said Smith. “He bowed his neck and did what he needed to do. The defense pulled through and came up with some key plays when we needed to get out of some jams.”
The Jackets were led at the plate by Tyler McCullough, who went 2-for-3 with one run. Van Ball collected the second run for Middlesboro while going 1-for-2.
In a losing effort, Harlan outhit the Yellow Jackets 11-5. Caleb Hogue picked up the loss while throwing seven strikeouts.
Hogue also paced the Green Dragons at the plate going a perfect 4-for-4. Nick Jarvis tallied two hits on four at-bats and one RBI. Noah Busroe earned Harlan’s only run while going 2-for-4.
McCullough gave Middlesboro a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after stealing home on a wild pitch. The Dragons moved runners in scoring position in the second with two outs on the board, but a fly out to center field ended the inning.
The Jackets increased their lead in the second inning after scoring another run. With two outs on the board, Ball got on base with a single. He advanced to second with a single from McCullough before scoring on a fielding error, giving Middlesboro a 2-0 lead.
Harlan was able to get Antonio Roman in scoring position with two outs. Austin Wilson struck out before Roman could make his way home to keep the deficit at two.
The Dragons were most threatening in the fifth inning. After reaching first on an error, Busroe scored on a bunt single from Jarvis to cut into the lead, 2-1. With only one out, Harlan loaded the bases.
With the tying and leading runs on base, Mike threw two consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
Middlesboro held the Dragons to just one hit for the remainder of the game to secure the one-run victory.
Middlesboro (13-6) will travel to Claiborne, Tennessee at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Harlan (13-9) will travel to Barbourville (10-8) at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN