In a meeting of 13th Region contenders it was the Clay County Lady Tigers using a better defensive performance to pull out a 3-2 win over the Middlesboro Lady Jackets on Thursday.
The Lady Jackets got another spectacular pitching performance, this time by freshman Madison Shields, but couldn’t take advantage of it as errors led to all three Clay runs. Shields gave up just four hits over her seven innings while striking out 11 and walking one.
“All three runs were unearned. That’s been the story for us all year,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “I know the sun is bad out there but you’ve to work through that. We also didn’t the ball consistently and when you don’t hit the ball you can’t make up for those errors.”
Lady Tiger junior Lesley Roberts continued her strong season by holding Middlesboro to just two runs on seven hits over seven innings while striking out seven and walking one.
Clay County struck first with a run in the top of the first inning. Roberts drew a two-out walk and senior Alex Roberts followed with a fly ball to right. Lady Jacket right fielder Makayla Partin was battling the sun and the ball clipped off her glove and for a two-base error as courtesy runner Shelby Black scored from first for a 1-0 lead.
Middlesboro got a first inning single from Laura Durham but Clay second baseman Tracey Hubbard fielded a hard grounder by Bailey Hensley, tagged Durham and threw on to first for a double-play.
Shae Moyers reached on an error in the bottom of the second inning but was left stranded at first.
Meanwhile Clay wasn’t faring much better. Shields retired the side in order in the second and then got a pair of grounders to get of a jam in the third. Briana Smith had reached on an error and Alex Smith bunted for a hit with one out in the inning.
The Lady Jackets also threatened in the third. Partin walked, Durham reached on a fielder’s choice and Hensley singled to put runners at first and second. But Roberts came back with a strikeout to end the inning.
Clay’s Rachel Baker and Middlesboro senior Amanda Biscardi both had singles in the fifth inning, but the score remained 1-0 until the sixth.
With one out, Alex Roberts singled and Kashia Jackson then reached on another error in the outfield to put runners at second and third. Hubbard laid down a bunt, but Spurlock’s throw to first was high and went into right field as both runners scored to make the Clay lead 3-0.
“Clay County’s a good ball club. They play good defense and they’ve got three or four girls that can hit the ball hard,” Powers added. “That’s what they did and they got those hits to put the ball in play when they needed to.”
Middlesboro answered in their half of the inning. Hensley led off with a single to right and Spurlock followed with a base hit to left. With one out, Jessica Carter hit a hard grounder that shortstop Rachel Baker fielded in the hole and was able to throw to third in time to force Hensley out. Moyers dropped a single into center to load the bases and senior Tiffany Howerton followed with a base hit to right that scored Spurlock. Carter scored on a passed ball to make it a one-run game, but Roberts was able to field a comebacker to end the inning.
Roberts sat the Lady Jackets down in order in the bottom of the seventh with Baker making a diving catch of Hensley’s soft liner to end the game.
“Lelsey does a good job for Clay. She battles and she kept us off balance. We didn’t hit her good up there, either, we only had two hits,” Powers said. “We started getting to her a little bit in this one. We had our nine, one and two hitters coming up in the seventh and that’s where you want to be. But she made good pitches and they never could hit her hard.”
Clay County (17-4) host Bell County on Friday while Middlesboro (13-9) hosts Barbourville on Monday.
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|Lesley Roberts and Alex Roberts; Madison Shields and Laura Durham. W — LRoberts. L — Shields.|