Brandon Hale was a one-man slump buster for the visiting Middlesboro Yellow Jackets on Wednesday in a 14-0 rout of Harlan.
The junior pitcher/first baseman tossed a two-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks in the five-inning, supplying more than enough offense by himself with two doubles and two singles in a six-RBI performance.
“He had a heck of a day at the plate,” Middlesboro coach John Smith said. “We have been struggling all year, and nobody is worried about Middlesboro now. We’re kicking it all over the field and letting teams stay in it that shouldn’t. We stayed back a little better today on the off-speed stuff and hit it hard. I hope we’re moving in the right direction.
The game was a short contrast to Monday’s matchup at Middlesboro when the Jackets had to battle back from an early 8-1 deficit to win a 15-10 slugfest. The Jackets had lost six straight before defeating Louisville Christian and then rallying against Harlan.
“We struggled a little bit with them Monday, pitchers leaving it up in the zone, and they came out hitting,” Smith said. “Brandon kept it down in the strike zone today and had all three pitches working.
Harlan could manage only two hits, singles by Ben Abraham and Tye Patrick in the third inning. Hale allowed only one other base runner as he hit Cory Chorak with a pitch in the fourth inning.
“We were flat and didn’t hit the ball, and they hit the ball hard,” Harlan coach Robbie Burns said. “Hale threw the ball well for them, but we just rolled up the carpet and went home.”
Cole Frazier, a junior designated hitter, added a pair of singles for the Jackets. Jake Brock had a triple and walked twice, scoring three times out of the leadoff spot. John Millett added a double and single. Tyler McCullough doubled. Tyler Yoakum and Lucas Crawford contributed singles.
Middlesboro jumped on Harlan ace Caleb Hogue for seven runs in the opening two innings. Hogue allowed seven runs on six hits, striking out one and walking five. Andrew Saylor allowed seven runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking three. Jordan Turbyfill shut out the Jackets over the final 1 2/3 innings, retiring all five hitters he faced.
Millett and Hale had two-out RBIs in the first inning as the Jackets grabbed an early lead. Middlesboro took control with five runs in the second inning, highlighted by a two-run single from Hale. The Jackets also benefited from five walks in the inning.
Hale had the big hit again in the third inning with a two-run double. Frazier and Yoakum had singles earlier in the inning as the Jackets scored four more runs.
Brock showed off his speed with an RBI triple in the fourth inning after McCullough had reached base on an error. Millett singled home two runs and Hale doubled home another to finish off Saylor.
Middlesboro (11-9 overall, 2-2 district) will travel to Hazard on Friday in the All “A” Classic sectionals. Harlan (8-8 overall, 0-4 district) will play host to Rye Cove, Va., in a 4 p.m. game Friday before playing host to Buckhorn in a doubleheader Saturday at noon.
Middlesboro254 30 — 14 12 0
Harlan 000 00 — 0 2 2
Hale and Prater; Hogue, Saylor (3), Turbyfill (4) and Miller. WP — Hale. LP — Hogue (1-2).