Harlan held on for the better half of four innings but couldn’t produce any offense as Harlan County walked away with an 8-0 victory on Tuesday to advance to the 52nd District championship against Middlesboro.
“Harlan came out and small-balled a lot. Our defense reacted well,” said Harlan County coach Tim McElyea. “Our infield got a good workout. That’s a good thing because we fielded a lot of bunts and slaps tonight.”
“Tomorrow’s game, Middlesboro’s had our number for a long time. I just hope we’re competitive and (I) hope it’s a good game. They’ve got a good club and a couple of good arms. I just hope that we can make it a good game and see what happens at the end.”
The Lady Bears held a two-run lead through three innings before adding three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth to secure the victory.
Destinee Jenkins was credited with the win after allowing only one hit through 5 2/3 innings. She also finished the game with five strikeouts and one walk.
“We’ve been working hard all week. I think she’s on top of her game right now, and we’re ready for Middlesboro tomorrow,”said pitching coach Marcus Johnson.
Nikki Creech and Jenkins paced Harlan County at the plate going 2-for-4 with one run apiece. Farren Clark finished with two runs on one hit. Haley Blakely, Carmen Cox and Jessie Johnson also scored runs for the Lady Bears.
Madison Brewer picked up the loss for the Lady Dragons. Through 4 2/3 innings, she allowed six hits and eight runs.
Payton Bennett recorded Harlan’s only hit during the game. Jesse Cochran and Sidney Horton also reached base on a walk and error, respectively.
“We tried something different and tried to play a little small ball against them. With our injuries, we basically have nine to 11 players depending what game it is. We tried to work with what we could,” said Harlan coach Scott Lewis. “You’ve got to give credit to Harlan County. They’re a solid team.”
“I’m proud of the way our girls played and the way they fought through. Overall, I think we had a good season with the cards that we were dealt.”
Brewer and Kaitlyn Jenkins are Harlan’s only two seniors on the team.
“I’ve known Madison every since she was probably 8 years old, and Kaitlyn since she was a freshman. That’s going to be a loss. That’s going to be some shoes to fill. I’m very proud of them and the way they played all four years,” said Lewis.
Harlan County took a 2-0 lead in the home half of the first after Clark and Jenkins scored on a fielding error.
Harlan kept the Lady Bears quite until the home half of the fourth. With bases loaded, Carmen Cox scored on a walk to increase the Harlan County lead to 3-0. The Lady Bears widened the gap to 5-0 after Kacie Russell hit a two-run single.
Harlan County finished the game with runs from Blakely, Cox and Creech in the fifth inning to secure the eight-run victory. With the win, the Lady Bears advanced to the district championship game against Middlesboro on Wednesday.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN