Winners of three 13th Region championships over the past four years, the South Laurel Cardinals won’t receive much sympathy around the region during a rebuilding season like they are going through now.
South Laurel fell to 4-13 on Friday with a 3-2 loss at Harlan County during which the Cardinals’ youth and inexperience were on display with five runners lost in the bases. Two were cut down on one extremely strange play in the seventh inning that helped the Black Bears hang on for a win they almost let get away.
“We’re young, and we’re inexperienced at positions where we’re not young,” South Laurel coach Winn Harris said. “We’re trying to get better and prepare for the first round of the district tournament. This is a region game and a rival game the past three or four years, and we’re not backing down from that. I think it was well played game on both sides. We’re just trying to get better every day and play our best baseball in the district and region.”
Harlan County ace Jared Sizemore cruised through the first six innings, holding the Cardinals scoreless on five hits. But since Sizemore pitched Tuesday in a no-hit 9-0 win at Bell County, Harlan County coach John Lewis elected to bring in Josh Jordan to pitch the seventh.
The move almost backfired as Braden Miller drew a walk to lead off and then scored on J.J. Ramey’s triple. When Jacob Wooolum walked to put the tying run on base, Lewis came out of the dugout and moved Sizemore back to the mound. Cory Grimes greeted the junior lefthander with an RBI single to center.
With runners on first and third and none out, South Laurel’s base running mistakes cost them the game. Kyle Gilbert tried to put down a safety squeeze, but Sizemore’s pitch was outside and catcher Brendan Rutherford threw back to third and started a lengthy rundown. Ramey was eventually tagged out going back to third by shortstop Sean Johnson, who then turned and tagged Woolum as he tried to advance to third.
“The whole idea is to get on, get over and get in, and we were trying to to that,” Harris said. “I didn’t want to give up a runner with no outs, but we didn’t get a good read and didn’t get to third quick enough. That happens. I hope it helps us later on.”
“Jared threw 60-some pitches Tuesday and 60-some pitches tonight. We just thought we’d let him rest, and Josh needed some work,” Lewis said. “We thought 3 would be enough but it wasn’t.”
Sizemore struck out Gilbert to end the game, finishing with eight strikeouts and no walks in improving to 5-0. Sizemore also picked off two base runners.
“He did a great job in neutralizing what we were trying to do with the running game,” Harris said. “He’s a polished pitcher who throws hard. He’s one of the top two or three pitchers in the region and did what he’s supposed to do. We hurt ourselves in the last night, but it was a well played game.”
“Jared stayed ahead the whole night,” Lewis said. “They got a couple of bloopers, but the pickoffs helped a lot. He did what he was supposed to do, and we executed well on our rundowns. We also got some key hits.”
The HCHS offense was led by Sizemore with a double. Dylan Cornett, Johnson, Gage Burkhart and Devin Rodrigues had one single each.
Harlan County grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run, two-out double to deep right by Sizemore. Rutherford reached base on a fielder’s choice and Gage Burkhart singled.Courtesy runner Garry Henson and Burkhart scored on Sizemore’s hit.
South missed a golden scoring opportunity in the fourth inning after Seth Swafford opened the inning with a single and Tucker Martin was safe when Rutherford’s throw to second on a bunt was high. Brendan Miller followed with a shot to deep right over Burkhart’s head. The runners held up to see if Burkhart could run the ball down, and when Miller was caught in a rundown between second and third, Johnson threw out Swafford at the plate. Sizemore then struck out Ramey and retired Woolum on a liner to left field to end the threat.
Harlan County (10-10) returns to action Monday at Corbin.
South Laurel* 000* 000* 2* — 2 7 2
Harlan County* 200* 010* x* — 3 5 1
McClure and Woolum; Sizemore, Jordan (7), Sizemore (7) and Rutherford. WP — Sizemore (5-0). LP — McClure. Sv — Sizemore (1).
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134