Chris Jones | Harlan Enterprise

Harlan County junior J Harris delivered a pitch in district action Wednesday against Middlesboro. Harris had two hits for the Bears and limited Middlesboro to three for the game, but the visiting Jackets won 3-2.

Jackets hang on for victory over HCHS

Both regular regional contenders not so long ago, Middlesboro and Harlan County are rebuilding teams in 2019 as the Jackets came into Wednesday’s district opener at 2-7 while the host Bears were 2-6.

Neither team was especially sharp Wednesday as each missed scoring opportunities before Middlesboro scratched out a 3-2 victory.

“We’ll take a win any time we can get it,” Middlesboro coach John Smith said. “We’ve lost four or five in the past, but we lost 10 (including eight starters) last year. It seemed like we graduated the whole team.”

Steven Justice earned the win as he allowed two runs on five hits in six innings, with three strikeouts and three walks. Tyler Harris pitched one shutout inning with three strikeouts and one walk to claim the save.

“Both our pitchers did a fantastic job locating and keeping them off balance,” Smith said. “We kicked it around early in the game, but our pitchers were able to battle and get out of it, especially with the bases loaded a couple of times.”

Junior shortstop Collier Elkins, the only returning starter, had a triple and single to lead the Jackets. Riley Gent added a single.

J Harris led the Bears with two singles. Quinton Boggs, Justin Brown and Garry Henson added one single each.

Harris suffered the loss despite giving up only three runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and three walks. Jordan Steele struck out three and walked three as he recorded the final five outs.

Middlesboro scored once in the first inning on two walks and an error. Elkins walked to open the game, stole second, moved to third on Tyshawn Simpson’s bunt and scored when Braden Ausmus reached on an errant throw from third base.

Harlan County pulled even in the fourth inning. Harris singled to center and Brown beat out an infield hit before Benjamin Lewis was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. Tyler Casolari hit a grounder to second and the flip to shortstop for.an inning-ending force was dropped, allowing a run to score.

Harlan County took the lead in the fourth but missed a chance for a big inning after the first four reached base. Steele was hit by a pitch, Boggs singled and Zac Collett was safe on an error after his sacrifice bunt. Harris singled home.a run, but Justice worked out of trouble by striking out Henson and getting.Brown and Lewis on ground outs.

Elkins led off the fifth inning with.a triple to deep center and scored on Braden Ausmus’ sacrifice fly, tying the game at 2-2. Henson made a diving stop in right on a line drive hit by Lane Perry to end the inning after Chris Callihan walked.

Shawn North walked and Gent singled to open the Middlesboro sixth. Harris struck out the next two Jackets before the Bears went to Steele. The game-winning run scored on consecutive wild pitches.

The Bears got two runners on in both the sixth and seventh innings but couldn’t come up with a hit that could have tied the game. HCHS left 11 runners on base

The two teams meet again on Thursday at Middlesboro.

———

Middlesboro 100 011 0 — 3. 3. 2

Harlan County 001 100 0 — 2. 5. 1

Justice, Harris (7) and Ausmus; Harris, Howard (6) and Casolari. WP — Justice. LP — Harris (0-4). Sv — Harris.