Bell County jumped into the lead with a five-run fifth inning and then barely held on for an 8-7 win over Cumberland Gap on Monday. The Bobcats overcame six errors and a couple of misplayed balls in the outfield to pick up their third straight win.
“I just preach to these kids to not quit playing. You know, they had us down 4-1 and last year we would have probably quit,” Bell coach Scott Chaney said. “We just kept playing and luckily pulled one out.”
Austin North pitched six-plus innings to get the victory. The junior allowed six runs, four earned, on six hits while striking out four, walking two and hitting a batter. Zach Turner got four strike outs in the final inning, one batter reached after swinging at a wild pitch. He gave up one run on two walks and two errors, but finished strong by striking out the final two batters to leave the bases loaded and earn a save.
“Like I said before, when we have those two on the mound we feel like we can compete with anybody,” Chaney added.
Cumberland Gap jumped on top with three runs in the top of the first inning. Gavin Burns was hit by a pitch and stole second. One out later Hunter Bayless hit a drive to left that got over the fielder’s head for an RBI double. Brandon Bailey singled and Gage Barnett brought two more runs in with a base hit for a 3-0 lead.
Bell got one run back in their half of the inning. Sophomore catcher Aaron Jenkins singled with one out and then scored on a Dylan Cox double.
The Panthers answered in the second with Joe Gidens drawing a one-out walk, stealing second and then scoring when Burns’ fly ball to left was played into an RBI double to make it 4-1.
“Our regular shortstop (Caleb Smith) is out sick and we had guys playing in different positions and we basically gave them a three-run head start with a couple of dropped balls in the outfield and maybe an error at second base,” Chaney said.
Cumberland Gap starter Jonathan Lorens was strong over the first four innings. He gave up just the one run on three hits while striking out three and walking one. But he tired in the fifth and the Bobcats took advantage.
“He’s dealt with a little arm fatigue but he battled and gave us a lot today,” Panther coach Nick Huckaby said. “The other two guys on the mound (Devon Helton and Burns) did, too. We’ve just got to get that as a whole team.”
Scotty Fields, Hayden Gilbert and Jenkins all singled to load the bases in the fifth and Cox was walked to force in a run. Helton took over the mound, but couldn’t stop the bleeding. Gilbert was forced out at home on a Jacob Rose grounder to third, but Chase Woolum’s sacrifice plated Jenkins to make it a one-run game. With two out Ethan Mason hit a grounder to short that went for an error as the tying and go-ahead runs scored. Mason later scored on a wild pitch to put Bell County up 6-4.
“Scotty got us started with a base hit and then the top of our line-up came up and we were able to put up five runs,” Chaney said.
The Bobcats got two insurance runs in the six that proved to be huge. Fields started the inning by reaching on an error and Gilbert singled. With one out Cox was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Rose followed with a two-run single to left.
North had kept the Panthers off the board since the second inning, but opened the seventh by walking Gidens. Burns followed with a liner to right that was dropped for an error. Turner relieved and his throwing error on a pick-off moved the runners to second and third. Gidens scored on a wild pitch, and after one strike out, Bayless reached after swinging at a wild strike three. Bailey followed with a hard grounder that got through second for an error as Burns scored.
Walks to Gage Barnett and Lorens forced in a run to make it 8-7 with just one out. But Turner came back with consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
“I give a lot of credit to Bell County. They made plays when they needed to and they’ve got some athletes,” Huckaby said. “Coach Chaney said some days they’re on and some days they’re off. I think we caught them on an ‘on’ day. They made plays, two guys threw strikes, they hit the ball and I think he’s got a pretty good club.”
Bailey and Barnett led Cumberland Gap with two singles apiece while Burns and Bayless both had RBI doubles and scored two runs each. Gidens had two walks, two stolen bases and two runs scored.
Jenkins led the Bobcats with three hits and two runs scored. Cox doubled, walked and was hit by a pitch as he drove in two runs and scored twice. Gilbert had two singles and a run scored; Fields singled, reached on an error and scored twice; and Rose had a two-run single.
Bell County (3-3) is scheduled to host Lynn Camp on Wednesday. Cumberland Gap (4-5) was scheduled to visit Pineville on Tuesday and will host Middlesboro on Saturday.
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|Jonathan Lorens, Devon Helton (5), Gavin Burns (6) and Brandon Bailey; Austin North, Zach Turner (7) and Aaron Jenkins. W — North. L — Helton. Sv — Turner.|