The Harlan Lady Dragons have been playing some of their best ball of the season over the past few weeks, but the Middlesboro Lady Jackets continue to have their number. Tuesday, the Lady Jackets scored the final three runs to take a 6-3 win over Harlan.
The Lady Dragons struck first as Madison Noe led off the game with a base hit and later scored on an error for a 1-0 lead.
Middlesboro answered quickly with three runs in the bottom of the first. Megan Prater and Kelsie Hensley were both hit by pitches to start the inning and Lauren Spurlock reached on a fielder’s choice grounder to put runners at the corner. Spurlock stole second and Prater scored on a delayed steal from third on the play to tie the game. With two out, Laura Durham poked an RBI double into the right-center field gap and Savanna Miracle followed with run-scoring single to make it-3-1.
Harlan got one run back in the second inning when Madison Brewer reached on an error and Jourdan Ledford followed with an RBI double to left.
The Lady Dragons tied the game in the top of fourth. With one out, Brewer walked and Ledford reached on a 6-4 fielder’s choice. Alyssa Mills reached on an error after a bunt to put runners at the corners and Kaitlyn Jenkins grounded one right back up the middle for an RBI single.
Middlesboro had left the bases loaded in the third inning, but loaded them again in the fourth as Bailey Hensley and Prater walked around a single by Jessica Carter. Kelsie Hensley battled Brewer to a full count and then worked a walk of her own to force in the go-ahead run. Brewer came back with a pair of strike outs and got Durham to ground out to third to again leave the bases loaded with the score just 4-3.
“We had the bases loaded twice, once with no outs, and still only wound up with one run out out of it,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “Eventually, it’s going to end up hurting you to leave runners on base like that. We did capitalize on some of their mistakes and did get some hits with runners on, but with the bases loaded and no outs you’ve got to be able to score two or three runs.”
Carter held Harlan to just a walk to Brewer in the sixth and a single by Kaylee McNiel in the seventh while pitching around a couple of errors the rest of the way.
The Lady Jackets capped the scoring with two runs in the fifth. Miracle singled took second on a wild pitch. With two out, Carter lined a shot to left that was misplayed into a two-base error as pinch runner Shae Moyers scored. Prater followed with an RBI single to center that made it 6-3.
Noe led Harlan with two singles while Ledford doubled and Jenkins and Mills also had hits. For Middlesboro Miracle had two singles, Durham doubled while Prater, Spurlock, Padgett and Carter also had hits.
Carter worked all seven innings to pick up the win. The sophomore scattered five hits while giving up three runs, one earned. She struck out four and walked two.
“Jess did pitch a good ballgame, she’s starting to come on right now,” Powers added. “She gets a little upset out there sometimes, but she pitches her heart out. She’s starting to throw it harder and I think she’s hitting her peak, which is good for us heading down the stretch.”
Brewer was a bit wild in the loss for the Lady Dragons. She allowed six runs, four earned, on seven hits while striking out seven, walking six and hitting two batters over six innings.
Both teams play at home on Thursday with Harlan (13-12, 1-4 in district play) taking on Harlan County while Middlesboro (14-7, 5-1) hosts Williamsburg.
Tuesday’s win wraps up regular season district play for the Lady Jackets and they will be the top seed for the 52nd District Tournament. The 52nd figures to put on the most intriguing softball tournament in the 13th Region with all four teams proving capable of beating the others on any given night.
“It’s probably the toughest district to play in in all of the 13th Region. Harlan’s a great team, they’re well-coached and they play hard. Harlan County has been the district champ the last three or four years and they always play tough in the district. You’ve got to be counting on them to be back where they were at the end of last year. Bell has beat Harlan and Harlan County both this year, so you never know what’s going to happen,” Powers added. “It’s going to be a tough district tournament, I’m just glad it’s at home for us.”
— — —
Harlan…………110 100 0 — 3 5 2
Middlesboro…300 120 x — 6 7 5
Brewer and Jenkins; Carter and Durham. W-Carter. L-Brewer.