Struggling to just three wins a season ago, the Harlan Lady Dragons could likely only dream of competing with the area’s top softball teams.
What a difference a year makes.
The Lady Dragons were more than competitive Friday, as they upset 14th Region favorite Jenkins 6-5.
“I knew we had come a long way, but beating Jenkins is more than what I expected at this point. I don’t know how many other teams around here could play with Jenkins,” said Harlan coach Scott Lewis. “We would like to build what Jenkins has over there and what Middlesboro has had here. We want to be a solid team.”
Jenkins opened the scoring with a run in the first inning, before Harlan responded with one in the second.
Jourdan Ledford tripled to reach base and scored on a Heather Holland single to tie the game at one.
After the Lady Cavaliers scored in the top of the fifth, Harlan took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning.
Alyssa Mills reached on a single. Madison Noe followed with a single to drive in Mills. Noe later scored on a single by Kristina Fields.
Jenkins tied the game with a run in the sixth inning, but the Lady Dragons went back in front with a score in the bottom half.
Madison Brewer reached base on an error and advanced to second and third passed balls. She scored when Heather Holland hit into a fielder’s choice.
The Lady Cavs regained the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, but Harlan responded with two in the bottom of the inning.
Amanda Longworth started the inning with a leadoff walk. Longworth advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by Noe. Anna Karst followed with a single and Ledford was intentionally walked to load the bases. Brewer then walked on five pitches to force in the winning run.
“At the beginning of the year this would have never happened. I have no doubts in the later innings anymore that they can hit with anybody,” Lewis said. “They have matured a lot as softball players. We are still young in age, but they have matured as softball players.”
Ledford’s triple paced the Lady Dragons at the plate. Noe and Karst each contributed two singles. Fields, Holland, Mills and Longworth each added a single.
Noe struck out two batters in the complete-game victory on the mound.
Harlan (15-16) will face Bell County in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament on Monday at Harlan County. Jenkins (25-9) will travel to Shelby Valley today.
Jenkins 100 011 2 - 5 8 1
Harlan 010 021 2 - 6 9 5
Stambaugh and Niece; Noe and Goins. WP-Noe. LP-Stambaugh.