WILLIAMSBURG —Madison Shields carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out eleven, Laura Durham drove in three runs on four hits and the Middlesboro Lady Jackets advanced to the 13th Region semifinals with a 10-4 win over Pineville on Monday.
“It’s a big accomplishment for us. We got here last year and didn’t fare so well so it’s big to get that first win in the regional under our belt,” MHS coach Luster Powers said.
After hitting several hard shots right at defenders in last week’s loss to Harlan County in the 52nd District championship game, the Lady Jackets were due and they found the holes on Monday. Middlesboro racked up 13 hits in the game and were also helped out by five Lady Mountain Lion errors.
“We hit it good and that’s what I was kind of worried about was whether we’d be able to come out and hit. We didn’t hit (Pineville pitcher Rebecca Lee-Theis) very well during the regular season and that’s in the back of your head,” Powers said. “I didn’t know if we were going to hit like we did against Harlan County or if we were going to hit it like I know we can. We hit it hard today.”
Lee-Theis retired the Lady Jackets in order in the top of the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second. Shae Moyers reached on an error to start things off, Jessica Carter walked and a passed ball put runners at second and third. A ground out by Shields drove in the game’s first run and Tiffany Howerton followed with an RBI single. Makayla Partin also singled and Destiny Ford bunted the runners up before Durham capped the inning with a two-run double to left.
“It just wasn’t our day. Sometimes in sports that happens,” Pineville coach Shari Knuckles said. “We went from averaging about one error a game to making five or six errors today. The girls were doing the best they could, nobody sets out to make an error or strike out.”
Middlesboro’s third inning saw a throwing error let in one run and Howerton singled in another as the lead grew to 6-0.
Another throwing error after a Destiny Ford bunt let in two runs in the fifth inning and Durham tacked on an RBI single to give the Lady Jackets a 9-0 lead.
“Laura is zoned in right now and hitting it hard. If we can get everybody zoned in like her we’ll be hard to beat,” Powers added.
Bailey Hensley came around to score in the seventh after Lauren Spurlock’s hard single to right and an error in the outfield.
Shields, a freshman, was dominant early on. Pineville managed only a Rebekah Hoskins walk and Lizzie Lee-Theis reaching on an error over the first four innings. Rebecca Lee-Theis walked to start the fifth and one out later Kameron Jackson reached on an error. Sheilds came back to get a strikeout and a comebacker to end that inning.
Trailing 10-0 heading into their final at bat, the Lady Lions didn’t go down without a fight.
Rebecca Lee-Theis led off the bottom of the seventh with a little chopper with back spin that kicked between Shields and shortstop Shae Moyers for an infield single. Brooke Sanders singled to right and was able to make it all the way to third on an error as courtesy runner Sophia Knuckles scored. With one out Brandy Sanders lined an RBI double down the right field line to make it 10-2.
“We just decided to relax and start hitting a little bit and I’m proud of them that they didn’t just lay down and quit,” Knuckles added.
Shields got her eleventh strikeout of the game for the second out, then Emily Mullins laid down a bunt and advanced to third on a throwing error as Sanders scored. Erica Gambrell walked as Mullins scored on a wild pitch to bring Pineville within 10-4. Lizzie Lee-Theis also walked and Carter relieved Shields. She got Hoskins to hit a liner to second where Howerton juggled it but finally hauled it in for the final out.
“I really think the heat and sun kind of got to us and we lost our focus a little bit in that last inning,” Powers said. “Up 10-0 I told them to go right straight at them and (Shields) just lost the strike zone. That’s the good thing about having a pitching staff is you can bring somebody in to close it out and Jess did a good job of that.”
Durham had two doubles and two singles, Howerton had three hits, Partin doubled and singled while Spurlock and Shields both had two hits in the game for the Lady Jackets.
Middlesboro (17-10) advances to play South Laurel in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal. Harlan County plays North Laurel in the late semifinal at Whitley County High School.
“We’ve just got to come out focused and ready to play,” Powers said before he know who the Lady Jackets opponent would be. “I think the girls are confident we can play with anybody if we play our game.”
Pineville, the 51st District champion, ends the season with a record of 13-7.
“We had worked hard coming in to this season and our goal is always to win our district and get to the region. We would have liked to get a W in the region but you can’t be too greedy,” Knuckles said. “You have to show true character even when you lose and the girls did that and represented Pineville well. It’s been an awesome ride this year and this game doesn’t take anything away from our girls.”
The Lady Lions lose just two seniors in Rebecca Lee-Theis and right fielder Kelsie Goodin. Lee-Theis will be especially hard to replace as a four-year starter in the pitcher’s circle.
“Both of those girls are going to be missed tremendously. It always seems like you get your pitcher right where you want them and then they go on to college. But that’s what high school is, a stepping stone,” Knuckles said. “One thing about Pineville is that we start early with our kids so they’re ready to step up, but those are going to be hard shoes to fill.”
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|Madison Shields, Jessica Carter (7) and Laura Durham; Rebecca Lee-Theis and Brooke Sanders. W — Shields. L — Lee-Theis.|