Middlesboro downs Harlan, 12-7, to advance to district championship

The 52nd District Championship game is set. The Middlesboro Yellow Jackets will take on the Bell County Bobcats on Tuesday afternoon on Log Mountain for the 52nd District crown.

The Middlesboro Yellow Jackets played the Harlan Green Dragons in the first game of the day. Middlesboro got off to a great start, tallying four runs in the first inning, while holding Harlan scoreless. A five-run third inning proved to be a deciding factor for the Middlesboro victory.

“Justice wasn’t himself tonight,” said Middlesboro coach John Smith. “He was pitching behind the count most of the night, especially early on in the game. They just kept pecking him around and made it hard for him to find a rhythm. We came out and had a big inning in the third, and then we take an inning off and don’t even come out and swing at anything, then we came out and had another big inning. It just seemed like every other inning we needed to come out and put something together just to stay in the lead instead of just doing it in every inning like we should have.”

“Overall, I’m pretty pleased,” said Smith. “We did hit the ball pretty well tonight and had a few stolen bases. Collier did a great job of coming in and closing the game for us tonight. He came out and threw strikes and got us out of there.”

Chris Callihan connected on a two-RBI single, driving in Collier Elkins and Braden Ausmus to give Middlesboro an early 2-0 lead in the first. Shawn North drove in two more runs and was able to take first base on a Harlan error, giving the Yellow Jackets a 4-0 lead before the Green Dragons were able to stop the bleeding.

Caleb Adkins answered for Harlan in the top of the second inning, connecting on an RBI single to bring the score to 4-1. Stephen Justice struck out the final two Green Dragon batters to put Middlesboro back on offense.

Harlan held the Yellow Jackets in check, retiring three straight batters to retire the side and take over on offense. Killian Ledford connected on a single, giving the Green Dragons a runner on base. Justice then walked two more Harlan batters, loading the bases.

Joshua Knuckles was walked with bases loaded, giving the Green Dragons an unearned run, bringing the score to 4-2. Adkins again delivered for Harlan by connecting on an RBI double closing the gap to 4-3.

The Yellow Jackets played their best inning of the game in the bottom of the third as they drove in five runs. After Callihan connected on a single and Riley Gent was walked, North added another RBI on a double. On the ensuing batter, Hagen Owens connected on an RBI single to extend the Middlesboro lead to 6-3.

Justice added two runs on a single, extending the Yellow Jacket lead to 8-3. Elkins delivered the final RBI of the inning on a single, giving Middlesboro a 9-3 lead heading into the fourth inning.

Ledford drove in another run in the fourth inning, connecting on a double to bring the score to 9-4. Elkins was then brought in to relieve Justice on the mound after pitching 3 2/3 innings.

Each team added three more runs in the sixth with the Yellow Jackets securing a five-run victory over the Green Dragons in seven innings.

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Middlesboro — 405 030 x. 12. 13. 2.

Harlan — 012 013 0. 7. 6. 4.

Justice, Elkins (4) and Ausmus. Varner, Robinson (5) and Knuckles. WP — Justice. LP — Varner. CP — Elkins