The difference in the game came down to two runs Bell was able to put on the board in the fourth inning off of a pair of Jacket errors.
“We’re two evenly matched teams,” Middlesboro coach Billy Powell said. “We had a couple of errant throws there in one inning that allowed them to get two runs and we had a couple of base-running blunders that takes out of potentially a big inning.
“I give them credit. They didn’t make the errant throws and they didn’t make the base running mistakes and that’s how you win.”
The victory puts Bobcats inthe driver’s seat for the top seed in the 52nd District. Rain earlier in the week reduced the Bell-Middlesboro series to one game and now Bell is 2-0 in district series with everyone else having at least one loss.
The win is even sweeter for Bobcat coach John Smith, who was a standout player at Middlesboro under Powell.
“It feels great,” he said. “I played here and coached here for two years. I’m familiar with the system and they’ve always had a good program. A couple of errors gave us the lead and we were able to hold on and if feels good to come back and beat your old school.
“It’s a tough district and being the number one seed doesn’t mean that much. You’ll have to beat two good teams to get out of it anyway.”
The Jackets jumped out to 1-0 lead in the first inning. Evan Womack drew a two-out walk after a long at bat, advanced to second on a passed ball and stole third. Hunter Adams then lined a base hit to center score Womack and put Middlesboro on top.
Zachery tied the game up with a long home run, high and deep over the scoreboard just left of straight away center field, with one out in the top of the third.
“He came out late last year and in his first game back he hit a home run against Middlesboro,” Smith said. “He steps in tonight and we’re down 1-0, gets a pitch over the middle of the plate and he just drives it out. It was a big hit for us and got the momentum headed back our way.”
Middlesboro got runners on base in the bottom of the inning, but a couple of mistakes on the basepaths kept a rally from getting started. Scott Mason drew a lead-off walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He tried to go to third when another pitch bounced away from Bobcat catcher Matt Simpson. But Simpson recovered quickly and fired a strike to John Dudley Hilton at third to retire Mason.
Womack singled, but Greer picked him off at first. Adams beat out an infield hit on a swinging bunt and stole second. But that was the last base runner Greer would allow. He got out of the inning with a strikeout went on to retire the final 13 batters he faced.
Bell took advantage of two Middlesboro errors in the top of the fourth to take the lead.
Simpson led off with a double off the wall in right-center and one out later Chase Ely hit a grounder to third. Brett Pittman’s throw sailed high and got away from Mason at first. Simpson came around to score on the error as Ely advanced to second.
Jake Jones’ fly ball to right moved Ely to third and with two out Monte Merrick hit a grounder to second. Womack bobbled the ball and then his throw pulled Mason off the bag. Merrick had hustled down the line and was safe on the error as Ely scored to put the Bobcats up 3-1.
Bell would put at least one runner on base in every inning, but Middlesboro pitcher Alex Pratt kept them from ever breaking the game open. He scattered ten hits over seven innings while allowing just one earned run. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
“I think we’ve had a lot of good pitching performances this year, but I think that’s the best we’ve had so far,” Powell said. “Alex went the distance. He got one up a little bit and Shawnta made him pay for it, but other than that he did a great job.”
But Greer was dominant. Of the four hits he allowed, only Adams’ liner in the first inning was hit hard. He struck out nine and walked three.
“Against Middlesboro and Harlan, both the district games, he stepped it up a notch,” Smith said. “He pretty much threw it by people in both games. He’s a big-game pitcher and he’s going to get all the big games for us. Once we got the lead, he settled down a little bit and just threw strikes.”
Zachery’s home run was the biggest hit of the game and he also doubled in four at bats. Adam Overbay had three hits, including a double; Greer singled and doubled; Greer singled and doubled; Ely singled, reached on an error and a fielder’s choice and scored a run; and Hilton also had a hit for the Bobcats.
Adams had two hits to lead the Jackets and also stole two bases and drove in the only Middlesboro run. Womack singled, walked and scored a run; Holden Moyers had a bunt for a base hit while Mason and Eddie Gilbert both reached on walks.
Bell County (9-0, 3-0) hosts North Laurel today at 5:30 p.m.
Middlesboro (8-3, 2-1 in district play) was hoping to schedule a game for this evening after Cumberland Gap had to cancel to make up a district game. They will host Raceland Friday at 8 p.m. in the All “A” sectional.
— — —
Bell County 001 200 0 — 3 10 0
Middlesboro 100 000 0 — 1 4 2
Greer and Simpson; Pratt and Branham. W—Greer. L—Pratt. HR—B: Zachery.