WILLIAMSBURG — The more things change the more they stay the same as far as 13th Region softball goes. South Laurel and North Laurel both advanced to the regional title game so the championship will stay in London for a ninth straight season.
South Laurel beat Middlesboro 11-0 and North Laurel got past Harlan County 7-5 in Tuesday’s semifinals.
The Lady Jackets played the Lady Cardinals tough in the regular season, but they gave South too many extra outs and extra bases on Tuesday with seven errors that led to six unearned runs.
Meanwhile, Hagan Burns struck out six over four perfect innings to get the win. Destiney Salva pitched the final three frames and allowed just two hits and walked one.
“We just didn’t come out hitting. We got them out 1-2-3 in the top of the first and I think if we could have came back out and got a couple hits in that first inning it might have been a different story. But that’s just how it goes,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “Once we got behind we just couldn’t catch up.”
It was a balanced offensive attack for the Lady Cardinals as seven different players drove in at least one run. Mackenzie Powenski led South with two hits and two runs scored, Leslie Dixon drove in two and scored two with a single, walk and RBI ground out and Brittany Vandeventer doubled to drive in one run and scored twice.
Middlesboro junior Jessica Carter sat the Lady Cards down in order in the first inning — first baseman Makayla Partin fielded two bunts and senior second baseman Tiffany Howerton handled a grounder. But an error led to two runs in the top of the second.
Powenski led off with a single and Nel Murray hit a high drive to deep right that popped out of Madison Shields’ glove for a two-base error. Dixon and Salva followed with run-scoring ground outs for a 2-0 South lead.
Carter got herself in a jam in the third by walking Haley Shelby, hitting Vandeventer with a pitch and walking Burns with one out to load the bases. Powenski followed with an RBI single to left and an error by Lady Jacket left fielder Morgan Thompson allowed two more runs to score as Powenski advanced to third. With two down, Dixon and Salva both reached on infield singles and another error allowed Dixon to score to make it 7-0.
“We should have never been in that situation. We had a big error out in right field on a ball that should have been caught (in the second inning). Then Morgan lets one go between her legs over in left that clears the bases,” Powers said. “Those are plays that shouldn’t happen, but you just have to forget about it now and start working for next season.”
Vandeventer added an RBI double in the sixth inning and later scored on a Burns ground out. Kaylee Norvell had an RBI single in the top of the seventh and Shelby added a sacrifice fly that set the final score at 11-0.
Carter walked with one out in the fifth for the first Lady Jacket base runner. Bailey Hensley and Lauren Spurlock opened the bottom of the seventh with singles. Lady Cardinal second baseman Madyson Morris ranged far to her right to snag a liner off Shae Moyers’ bat and was able to double Spurlock off at first. Vandeventer made a sliding catch to bring in Carter’s line drive to short for the game’s final out.
Carter pitched all seven innings for Middlesboro. She gave up five earned runs on eight hits while striking out three, walking three and hitting a batter.
South Laurel (30-8) will play North Laurel (26-13) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the championship game at Whitley County High School.
Middlesboro ends the season with a record of 17-10. The Lady Jackets took another step forward this year by advancing to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008. The season included another 13th Region All “A” title and the program’s first win over North Laurel.
They lose Howerton to graduation along with Destiny Ford and Amanda Biscardi who split time at designated player this season. Eight starters will be back next year along a strong group of incoming freshmen.
“The future looks good. We’ve got a bunch of eighth-graders coming up that I’m certain will challenge some of these girls for starting spots next year,” Powers said. “Those two teams have dominated the 13th Region since they came into it and once you start dominating all you have do is say North Laurel or South Laurel and that intimidation factor comes into it. Hopefully next year we can get to where that doesn’t bother us and it will be Middlesboro that has the intimidation factor. That’s the goal anyway, and we’re going to work hard and try to get to that position.”
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|Hagan Burns, Destiney Salva (5) and Nel Murray; Jessica Carter and Laura Durham. W — Burns. L — Carter.|