Middlesboro is headed back to the 13th Region All “A” championship game after pulling away for an 11-1 win over Pineville in Thursday’s semifinal.
Tyler Yoakum gave up just an unearned run on three hits while striking out nine and walking one in a five-inning complete game to get the win. He also had a two-run single in the game.
“Tyler’s probably our number three man in our rotation and he kept us in the game when we were struggling those first few innings,” said Jacket coach John Smith. “Then we sort of opened the flood gates the last couple of innings. He’s done a heck of a job for us, both today and on Saturday against North Laurel.”
Junior second baseman Brandyn Ball drove in three runs on two hits and scored twice while Hunter Collett belted a pair of RBI doubles off the left field fence. Brian Hale singled for the Jackets’ other hit in the game.
Pineville was led by senior pitcher Kyle Capps. He drove in the Lions’ only run with an RBI double to bring in Jamie Roan, who had reached on an error, in the top of the third inning. Seth Jeffrey and Tyler Evans also had singles for Pineville.
Capps was effectively wild and held to just one hit and three unearned runs over the first three innings.
“With the weather and everything, we’ve only been able to play a couple of games. Honestly, we hit the ball pretty well today but we just made some errors,” said Pineville coach Scott Jeffrey. “We made some errors and they were able to score eight runs with two outs in fourth and fifth innings. Other than that, it was a good ballgame for four innings.”
Hale got the scoring started in the bottom of the first when he was hit by a pitch, stole second and third, and later scored on a wild pitch.
In the second Collett walked with one out and Logan Capps reached on a fielder’s choice as Collett was forced out at second. Ryan Pittman walked and, after a double steal, Lucas Crawford reached on an error as Capps scored for a 2-0 Jacket lead.
Ball reached on an error with two out in the third and stole second before Collett ripped an RBI double for Middlesboro’s first hit and a 3-1 lead.
“I hate to say they caught us by surprise because I knew they had some good athletes on the team. They played right with us for three innings or so and kept themselves in the ballgame,” Smith said of the Lions. “Capps did a good job keeping us off balance for a few innings, he had us out on our front foot and we weren’t sitting back and waiting on the ball. It was real cold and it took us a little while to get loose.”
The Jackets broke the game open in the fourth. Crawford and Brandon Hale both walked with one out and Brian Hale was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pineville third baseman Tucker Woolum snagged a one-hopper off the bat of John Millett and threw home in time to force Crawford for the second out. But the bases were still loaded and Yoakum reached on a throwing error as both Hales came in to score. Ball followed with a two-run single and then scored on Collett’s second RBI double off the fence to make it 8-1.
“Collett’s a junior and he’s hitting in that DH spot right now. (Junior catcher) Tyler Prater had a torn labrum and he’s not going to be released to swing a bat until March 28 so we’re DHing for him and Hunter stepped up big today and hit it hard,” said Smith.
“I think the third time around they started seeing Kyle’s pitches a little better, plus he might have got a little tired,” Jeffrey added. “They hit the ball solid. They’ve got a good team and John does a good job with them.”
Meanwhile, after giving up that run in the third, Yoakum retired the final seven batters he faced in order to close out the game.
Middlesboro scored the three runs they needed to bring the run-rule into effect with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Brandon Hale walked, Brian Hale singled and Millett walked to load the bases. Yoakum pulled a two-run single through the left side of the infield and Ball followed with a walk-off hit up the middle to end it.
“Brandyn’s another junior that has stepped in there at second base and is doing a heck of a job defensively,” Smith added. “He brought his bat with him today and knocked in a few runs for us.”
Pineville (2-2) plays at Harlan on Monday. Middlesboro (4-1) will travel to Williamsburg today for the 13th Region All “A” championship game. Williamsburg beat Harlan 12-8 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
“Like I said earlier, we feel like we’re going to be pretty solid defensively and we’ve got Lucas Crawford going for us (Friday). He was a big-game pitcher for us last year as a sophomore and he’s ready to take the ball any day we need him to,” Smith said. “We feel like we’re clicking on all cylinders offensively, defensively and running the bases. We’ve got tons of speed where we can do some different things to put pressure on a defense.”
— — —
Pineville…….. 001 00 — 1 3 3
Middlesboro…111 53 — 11 6 1
Kyle Capps and Jordan Slusher; Tyler Yoakum and Tyler Prater. W — Yoakum. L — Capps.