They broke through in a big way Tuesday as they jumped on top early then took advantage of eight Middlesboro errors to rout the Yellow Jackets 18-3.
Bobcat coach Rob Leddington said earlier this week that beating MHS was a psychological hurdle his team had to get through to turn the corner and become regional contenders. He said breaking that barrier was the result of a lot of support for the program.
“I want to give credit to our kids, to our community, to our school system. They have supported me and bought in to the fact that we can play baseball at Bell County,” he said. “(Basketball) coach (Lewis) Morris and I are trying to earn respect. Coach (Dudley) Hilton has done it. He has credibility, that football program is solid year in and year out.
“I hope that our baseball program will elevate itself to that level to where we can compete year in and year.”
Bell County put up three runs in top of the first inning off Jacket ace Brett Pittman. Matt Simpson reached on an error to start the game and one out later Spencer Greer and Robbie Slusher hit back-to-back doubles to plate two runs.
Slusher went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Kyle Nelson.
Nelson pitched around a Holden Moyers double in the bottom of the inning and Shawnta Zachery led off the Bell second with a home run.
Zachery was playing in his first game of the season after waivering on whether to play or not. He sent the first pitch he saw out to left center field.
“Young kids sometimes make mistakes and a lot of coaches wouldn’t have allowed Shawnta or any player to come out, quit and then come back,” Leddington said. “Shawnta and I have a very good understanding of what’s expected and our team understands that too.”
Middlesboro got one run in the third as Moyers sent a hot shot down the third base line that got through for an error to score Scott Mason.
They added another in the fourth after Kendall Ferguson and Alex Pratt hit consecutinve singles and Ferguson scored on Mason’s ground out to cut the Bobcat lead to 4-2.
But Bell County answered with six runs in the top of the fifth. Slusher had a two-run double and Nelson and John Dudley Hilton added RBI singles. The Bobcats were in control with a 10-2 lead.
The Jackets got one run back in their half of the fifth as Pittman singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a hit by Daniel Crawford.
But that’s all Middlesboro would get and Bell put the game away with eight runs in the sixth inning. The Jackets committed five errors in the inning as the game got completely out of hand, 18-3.
“The scoreboard speaks for itself,” Middlesboro coach Aaron Sowders said. “We weren’t mentally or physically ready to play today.”
Nelson went all six innings for the Bobcats. He scattered six hits and allowed two earned runs while striking out four and not issuing a walk.
Greer, Slusher, Adam Overbay and Zachery all had two hits each for Bell with Slusher and Zachery each driving in three runs and Nelson and Greer each driving in two.
The win all but assures Bell of the top seed for the district tournament, which they will be hosting.
They are 4-0 in seeding games with only Evarts left to play.
“That’s one of our goals. If we take care of business against Evarts we will be the number one seed,” Leddington said. “That was one of our goals because you don’t want to have to face Middlesboro in the first round of the district, they’ve been there and done that.”
He was also quick to point out that one win over the Jackets, no matter how lopsided it was, doesn’t necessarily mean the Bobcats have overtaken them.
“Middlesboro has pretty much dominated this region for decades. Today was just one day, we played well today and they didn’t,” Leddington said. “In no way do we think that we’re going to be able to beat them like we beat them today every time. But we’ll take today and we’ll run with it.”
Bell (10-8, 4-1) visits Lynn Camp today while Middlesboro (6-7, 2-1) hosts Evarts Thursday.
Bell County 310 068 — 18 12 3
Middlesboro 001 110 — 3 6 8
Nelson and Simpson; Pittman, Ferguson (6), Moyers (6) and Branham. W — Nelson. L — Pittman. HR — Zachery (B).
Photo: Bobcat senior Kyle Nelson delivers a pitch during Tuesday’s game. Nelson pitched all six inning as he allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits while striking out four and not walking a batter to get the win. He also drove in two runs with a ground-out and a single. (Jay Compton/Daily News)