Lucas Crawford spun a three-hit shutout and Hunter Collett drove in four runs as the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets beat Harlan 12-0 on Tuesday to complete a sweep of the district series. The win clinches a tie for first place in the 52nd District as MHS and Harlan County are both 5-1. The Jackets will be the top seed in the district tournament by virtue of scoring more runs in splitting two games against the Bears.
Unlike Monday’s game, Middlesboro got off to a quick start and didn’t look back. They scored five runs in the first inning and six in the second.
“After being a little sluggish to start the other night, we came out in the first and threw a five-spot on them. One through nine we were patient at the plate, stayed back and drove the ball hard,” Middlesboro coach John Smith said. “Everybody on both sides of the ball played good, solid baseball.”
Jake Brock led off the bottom of the first with a triple to deep right field. After walks to Tyler Yoakum and Brian Hale loaded the bases, John Millett delivered an RBI single. One out later Tyler Prater reached on a fielder’s choice as Yoakum scored. With two down, Collett ripped a two-run single through the left side. Jesse Hoskins was hit by a pitch and Brock added an RBI single for a 5-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Crawford. The junior was efficient as he needed just 46 pitches to get through five innings and finished with five strikeouts and one walk.
“Lucas went out there on the hill and threw strikes. He got ahead of hitters early and kept our defense on their toes. We made some great plays behind him,” Smith added.
Caleb Hogue singled to lead off the game and stole second for the Green Dragons, but was left stranded at third base. Dylan McNeil singled to start the second, but was erased on a 6-4-3 double-play. Jordan Turbyfill singled in the fourth and Austin Miller drew a walk in the fifth for the only other Harlan base runners.
McNeil took the loss for Harlan after giving up seven runs, six earned, over one-plus inning.
Brian Hale started the MHS second with a double and Millett reached on an infield hit before Brandon Hale’s RBI single to left chased McNeil. Tye Patrick relieved but was let down by his defense after Miller threw Millett out trying to steal third. Prater and Crawford both reached on errors as Hale scored and Collett smacked a two-run doubled to left that made it 9-0. With two down, Brock walked and then Yoakum reached on a two-base error as two more runs came in.
“Hunter hit has hit the ball well the last two games — he went 2-for-3 last night so we left him in the DH spot,” Smith added. “He stayed back and hit it solid. I think he’s somebody that we’re going to depend on as we head down the stretch.”
Patrick worked a 1-2-3 third inning and allowed zero earned runs on one hit over his two innings with one strikeout and one walk.
The Jackets subbed heavily in the fourth and the Dragons went with Jacob Clark on the mound. Joey Foreman singled for Middlesboro and Van Ball drew a bases loaded walk to force in Brandyn Ball to set the final at 12-0. Clark struck out two while allowing one run on one hit with two walks and a hit batter.
Middlesboro (12-7, 5-1) will host Thomas Walker, Va., today at 5:30 p.m. if weather permits. Harlan (13-9, 0-6) visits Buckhorn on Saturday at 11 a.m.
— — —
Harlan………..000 00 — 0 3 3
Middlesboro…560 1x — 12 9 0
Dylan McNeil, Tye Patrick (2), Jacob Clark (4) and Austin Miller; Lucas Crawford and Tyler Prater. W-Crawford. L-McNeil.