Middlesboro’s Lindsey Durham allowed only one earned run on eight hits over seven innings. She struck out five and walked three in taking a tough loss.
“She struggled a little bit in the early innings. She finally got loose, all the emotions left and she started pitching good from there and we played good on defense,” said MHS coach Luster Powers. “If we would have hit the ball half-way decent tonight I think we would have won.”
It was a well-played defensive game by both teams for the most part, but an early error helped the Lady Redhounds take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Hart led off the game with a single and took second on a passed ball. With two out, Hannah Helm ripped a hard single to left and the ball was misplayed as Hart scored and Helm advanced all the way to third. Sarah Woolum followed with an RBI single to put Corbin up 2-0.
That was all the support Hart would need. Erica Johnson singled for the Lady Jackets with two out in the first inning, but Hart induced a grounder to end the inning. She struck out the side in the second and got two more Ks while pitching a 1-2-3 third.
Middlesboro finally had something going in the fourth as Kelsie Hensley led off with a bunt and was safe on an error. She took second on a passed ball but Corbin third baseman Sydney Reynolds was able to snag a hard liner off Johnson’s bat for one out. Reynolds caugh a pop foul by Carissa Padgett for the second out and Durham followed with a hard ground ball but it was right at first baseman Callie Schoolcraft to end the inning.
In the fifth Savannah Miracle led off with a single back up the middle and with two down Ashlee Yowell slapped a base hit between first and second. Megan Prater’s sinking line drive to left held up just long enough to be caught to end the inning.
The Lady Jacket defense stood up to several Corbin threats during the game. In the third inning Bethany Hensley walked with one out and Helm reached on an error. Woolum then grounded to short where Padgett fielded the ball and flipped it over to Johnson at third for a force out. After Schoolcraft walked to load the bases, Katie Bernardo sent flare to right that looked like trouble. But Middlesboro senior right fielder Taylor Powers made a running catch heading toward the line to end the inning.
Corbin also had runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth, but Johnson was able to snare a hard grounder by Hensley and get back to the bag in time for a force out to end the inning.
It looked like the Lady Jackets might get out of another threat in the sixth. Whitley Gatliff led off by reaching on an error and one out later went to third on Hart’s double down the third base line. Lindsey Barton then hit a grounder to third that Johnson fielded and threw home in time to retire Gatliff at the plate.
“Erica has been strong all year long. She’s a gamer. She plays hard, she works hard, every practice she goes 100 percent every time she’s out there,” Powers said of his third baseman. “She’s made plays that probably a lot of people couldn’t make and it’s going to be awfully hard to replace her next year.”
The Lady Hounds got a two-out, two-run double by Hensley to stretch their lead to 4-0. Corbin nearly added to that lead, but Prater made a sliding catch in shallow center to rob Helm of a hit and end the inning.
Hart retired the final six batters she faced to close out the win.
It was the final home game for Middlesboro seniors Johnson, Durham, Powers and Holly Bolton and the four were honored before the game and introduced to the crowd.
“Those seniors have a lot of experience and we’re going to miss them a lot. It’s hard to replace that experience and that leadership,” coach Powers said. “We’ve still got district coming up and hopefully all the emotions they had tonight was just for tonight and everything will return back to normal Monday.”
Corbin (18-14) wraps up their regular season Saturday at Clay County while the Lady Jackets (14-18) have completed the regular season and will play host Harlan County Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the 52nd District Tournament.
“Harlan County is a tough team when it comes to tournament time. They’ve always played hard in the tournament,” Powers added. “We beat them twice this year in the regular season, they beat us at the First Priority Tournament at Whitley County. It’s just going to be a coin toss. It’s whoever shows up and wants it more than the other.”
— — —
Corbin ………… 200 002 0 — 4 8 1
Middlesboro… 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Hart and Hensley; Durham and Hensley. W — Hart. L — Durham.