The Middlesboro Lady Jackets snapped a three-year drought of appearing in the 13th Region Tournament with a 14-3 win over Harlan in the first round if the district on Monday.
Sophomore pitcher Jessica Carter settled down after allowing two runs in the top of the first inning and senior first baseman Savanna Miracle capped the win with a three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the fifth.
Harlan took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first as Madison Noe walked on four pitches to start the game, moved to second on a ground out by Anna Karst and then scored on a single by senior Amanda Longwood. Heather Holland followed with a double to left center to make it 2-0.
“After she gave up those two, I told Makayla (Partin) to go warm up because I wasn’t taking any chances. But Jessica settled down and worked her way through it,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “We hit the ball and we put it in play. They made a few mistakes and we capitalized on them and Savanna came up with a big hit there at the end.”
The Lady Jackets tied the game in the bottom of the inning as Megan Prater and Kelsie Hensley both walked and both scored on a two-out double by Laura Durham.
Middlesboro took the lead for good in the second. Tiffany Howerton and Bailey Hensley both singled to start the inning. Carter hit a grounder to short where Tori Mitchell was able to throw Howerton out at third. Prater walked to load the bases and Hensley scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Lauren Spurlock added a two-run double to left that pushed the lead to 5-2. Shanae Thomas made a diving catch of sinking liner to left off the bat of Durham to end the inning.
“We’ve played that way all year long. We play for two or three innings and…you know — but we’re so young,” said Harlan coach Scott Lewis. “We’ve only got three juniors and seniors. We do our best, but it doesn’t always work out.
“Middlesboro, you have to give them all the props. They’ve got pitching, they hit the ball well, they’ve always been a solid team,” Lewis added. “It was ours to take from them and we couldn’t take it.”
Carter pitched around a triple by Mitchell in the top of the third. After Miracle drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning Madison Noe releived Brewer. Howerton reached on an error and, one out later, Carter singled to right to load the bases. A base hit by Prater made it 6-2 and then Kelsie Hensley laced a three-run double up the gap in left-center for a 9-2 lead.
“We had the suicide squeeze on first pitch and she didn’t get it down, we were lucky she didn’t I guess. Three is better than one is what she said,” Powers added. “She hit the ball good tonight.”
The Lady Dragons pushed across a run in the fourth. Jourdan Ledford singled, but was retired at second as Thomas reached on a fielder’s choice. Kaitlyn Jenkins walked and Noe reache on an infield singled to load the bases. Carter fielded a Karst bunt and threw home for the second out, but Longwood came through again and poked an RBI single to right to make it 9-3.
Miracle doubled to open the bottom of the inning and scored on Bailey Hensley’s single to right-center.
The Lady Jackets put the game away in the fifth. Kelsie Hensley lined a base hit to left and advanced to third on a throwing error. Spurlock walked and went all the way to third as Hensley scored on a passed ball. Seventh grader Ashely Overbay came on to pitch and finished walking Padgett. She got a strikeout, but Miracle cleared the left-center field fence with her three-run blast to end the game.
Carter went all five innings for the Lady Jackets to get the win. She allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out two and walking three.
Miracle led the Lady Jackets with her home run and a double. She also walked, scored three runs and drove in three. Kelsie Hensley and Spurlock both singled and doubled, Bailey Hensley singled twice, Durham doubled while Prater, Howerton and Carter also had hits in the game.
For Harlan Longworth singled twice and drove in two runs. Noe had two singles and a run scored, Holland had an RBI double, Mitchell tripled and Ledford singled.
The Lady Dragons end the season with a record of 16-12. Harlan loses just two seniors and could be ready to challenge for a district title as soon as next year.
“I think we’ve got an awesome foundation. We should come up in the next year or two and be competitive with these teams,” Lewis said. “I think Middlesboro graduated five seniors and Harlan County loses a couple so we ought to be close with them next year.”
Middlesboro (19-9) advances to play Harlan County in the 52nd District championship game. The game has been rescheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. after rain washed it out on Tuesday. The win also puts the Lady Jackets in next week’s 13th Region Tournament.
“That didn’t even dawn on me until a few minutes ago when Bell’s basketball coach David Teague mentioned it. It’s a big honor to get to go and play in the region,” Powers said. “We’ve never made it since I’ve been coaching and it will be a new experience for these girls. Hopefully, they’ll stay hot and keep playing like they have these last few weeks. They’re playing awfully well.”
— — —
Harlan………..200 10 — 3 7 2
Middlesboro…234 14 — 14 12 1
Brewer, Noe (3), Overbay (5) and Jenkins; Carter and Durham. W-Carter. L-Brewer. HR-M:Miracle.