Middlesboro slipped past Harlan 4-1 Sunday to win the 13th Region All "A" Classic championship. The Lady Dragons held their own, but couldn't overcome the lightning-fast pitches from freshman Brooklynn Jimison.
The right-hander set the tone for the game early by recording three strikeouts in the first inning, all of which were on fastballs that the Lady Dragons could not get their bats around on.
"She pitched a great game. She kept us off balance, and I thought we just couldn't catch up with her," Harlan coach Chuck Mitchell said.
Even in losing, being able to play close to a team that has dominated the region the way Middlesboro has pulls Harlan into a higher class.
"We were in the top of the seventh with the tying run at the plate against a very good team. So that is something that we really are proud of our kids for," said Mitchell.
In the opening innings, Harlan pitcher Emily Caudill matched Jimison. The Lady Jackets connected for only one hit in the first two frames.
Caudill allowed only six hits, while walking four, to finish up an impressive tournament.
After Jimison struck out Harlan's final two batters in the top of the third, Middlesboro finally had some success in their half of the inning.
Brittany Williams led off with a walk and eventually scored on a passed ball. Second baseman Jessica Brown reached on an error and reached home three batters later when Jerrica Ogle ran out an infield hit. At the end of the inning, the Lady Jackets held a modest 2-0 lead.
Middlesboro rallied again in fifth inning around two Harlan errors. Theresa Gilbert and Ogle reached base on Harlan throwing errors. Both scored in the inning, although Caudill only gave up one hit. The mistakes caused the gap to widen to 4-0 after five innings.
The Lady Dragons' lone run came in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Megan Ball doubled into the gap in left center. Tierra Sundy came up with an infield single to drive in Ball, who was running on contact.
As Harlan began to adjust to Jimison's speed, the movement of the ball through the strike zone kept Harlan hitters from getting too comfortable.
"She worked the strike zone well. She knew what she was doing. We told the kids on the way up that she was going to throw that rise ball, especially when she gets ahead. We were just a little over anxious," said Mitchell.
Harlan's last chance was a very lucrative one. Rhonda Curtis was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning but was tagged out on Britany Jones' fielder's choice. Alex Yount beat out a slow rolling grounder, as Harlan had two runners on base with one out.
The next batter, Brittany Smith, grounded out to advance the runners to second and third. Brittany Freeman then came up with two outs and in the position as the possible tying run. After battling off several pitches Freeman made contact and sent a slow grounder back to the pitcher, who tossed over to first base for the final out.
Ball and Yount fueled the Harlan offense with a double and two singles, respectively. Sundy added a single.
Harlan (7-6) returns to action Tuesday in a district matchup at home against Evarts.
Harlan 000 001 0 1 4 6
Middlesboro 002 020 X 4 6 2
Caudill and Sundy; Jimison and Ogle. WJimison. LCaudill (5-2).
Consistent hitting by the entire batting order combined with another dominant pitching performance by Caudill proved to be enough Saturday night as Harlan topped Williamsburg 10-0 in the semifinals.
"We had little pops and crack in the inning. We would score one or two here and there," said Mitchell. "We got some base hits and we ran the bases well. I was proud of them. We hit the ball well tonight."
For the second night in a row, the Lady Dragons played great defensively. Even though Caudill induced several groundouts, the Harlan fielders handled each ball with relative ease and made several spectacular plays.
Both pitchers were especially sharp in the early innings. Neither team had a hit until Harlan's Yount hit a ball off of Williamsburg's Corrissa Black over the right fielder's head for a triple in the bottom of the third inning.
With Yount on third, the next batter, Smith reached on error and Yount scored. After Freeman reached on a ball mishandled by the pitcher, Jessica Rice's two-run single scored both Smith and Freeman. Harlan led 3-0 after three innings.
After Black allowed three runs to the Lady Dragons in the third inning Williamsburg chose to bring right fielder Savannah Ruth in to pitch.
Ruth struck out the first batter she faced, but then went on to walk Jones, Yount and Smith to load the bases. Her walk of Freeman was her fourth in a row and it scored Jones who advanced all the way around by walks.
After Freeman, Williamsburg brought Black back into the game. On Black's first pitch, Rice rice sent the ball into left center field to score Yount and Smith. Rice later scored when Sundy hit into a double play.
Harlan tacked on its 10th run in the bottom of the sixth to enact the mercy rule and end the game.
Caudill pitched all six innings for Harlan.
Ball fueled the Lady Dragon offense with a double and a single. Rice singled twice, while Yount added a triple. Sundy doubled, and Jones and Smith each chipped in with a single.
Harlan 003 511 10 8 1
Williamsburg 000 000 0 3 2
Black, Ruth (5), Black (5) and McAnally. Caudill and Sundy. WCaudill (5-1). LBlack.
Evarts fell to Williamsburg 13-1 in quarterfinal action of the All "A" regional Saturday morning.
The Lady Cats managed just two hits in the five-inning game. Kristen Jackson notched the first hit and scored the Evarts' lone run in the second inning.
The sophomore led off with a single up the middle and promptly stole second. She went to third on a ground out and scored on a passed ball one pitch before a Williamsburg strikeout ended the inning.
Junior Amy Baird added a single in the fourth inning.
Williamsburg 434 11 13 8 0
Evarts 010 00 1 2 4
Black and McAnally; Cornett, Baird (4) and Middleton.