If there were still any lingering doubts about who is the 52nd District’s best team, the Middlesboro Lady Jackets settled them Tuesday in a most resounding fashion.
With junior Madison Shields throwing a no-hitter, visiting Middlesboro completed a three-game sweep of Harlan County and clinched the top seed in the 52nd District Tournament with a 10-0 five-inning win. The Lady Bears have lost only six games all season, but half of those losses were against Middlesboro.
“Some teams get in your heads, and it’s been going on quite a while with Middlesboro. They have us mentally and in every aspect of the game,” Harlan County coach Tim McElyea said. “Middlesboro played well. They hit it and got great pitching.”
Middlesboro (19-6) closed its district schedule with a 6-0 record.
“This game did surprise me,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “We came out flat last night (a 3-1 loss to Clay County), but we came out tonight and hit the ball.”
Shields struck out seven and walked only one, facing only one batter over the minimum in five innings. Destinee Jenkins drew a two-out walk in the first inning to spoil what could have been a perfect game.
“She pitched a three-hitter last night and lost,” Powers said. “She has thrown well all year.”
The top four hitters in the Middlesboro lineup produced 10 of 13 hits, led by three singles each from Laura Durham and Taylor Moyers. Erica Gambrell had a triple and single. Lauren Spurlock singled twice, as did Kadi Cordell. Sarah Brooks added one single.
Jenkins suffered the loss, giving up eight runs on nine hits in two separate stints on the mound. Kacie Russell allowed two runs on three hits in 2/3 of an inning.
Middlesboro took control of the game early, sending 10 to the plate in a six-run second inning. The Lady Jackets loaded the bases when Shields was hit by a pitch followed by singles from Cordell and Brooks. Durham singled home two runs, as did Spurlock following a hit by Moyers. Gambrel added an RBI triple.
Shields walked and Cordell singled to open the third inning. Durham singled home one run and another scored on a double steal for an 8-0 lead.
The Lady Bears fell apart defensively as four errors in the fifth inning led to two more runs. After Shields retired HCHS in order in the fifth, the game ended via the 10-run mercy rule.
Harlan County (20-6) returns to action in a tournament Friday at Somerset. Middlesboro plays at Knox Central on Thursday.
Middlesboro* 062* 02* — 10 13 0
Harlan County* 000* 00* — 0 0 5
Shields and Durham; Jenkins, Russell (2), Jenkins (3) and King. WP — Shields. LP — Jenkins.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134