With the district tournament only five days away, John Lewis hoped he’d seen the last of the mistake-prone and non-executing version of his team that had lost six of seven to open the month.
Harlan County entered Wednesday’s regular season home finale against Central (Wise) Va. on a three-game winning streak but couldn’t continue that momentum as the visiting Warriors capitalized on four errors in a 4-2 win.
“When we execute we’re pretty good, but we we didn’t tonight. We executed one hit and run and scored, but that was it,” Harlan County coach John Lewis said. “I told them it’s out of our hands. When we call a bunt you have to get it down. If you don’t hit, you don’t win at this point. It’s not March. You have to make the plays in May.”
Jake Jesse retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced to cap a four-hitter.
“Tonight we watched too many strikes,” Lewis said. “We played right into the pitcher’s hands. We would watch a strike, get in a hole, then get caught reaching and hit a ground ball. We never did get on him. We weren’t aggressive at the plate and didn’t get any bunts down
Connor Leisge was the hard-luck loser for the Bears, giving up four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. Leisge was not nearly as dominating as he was in a 13-strikeout performance against Hazard last week but deserved a better fate as the final two Wise runs came home on errors at first base. The loss was also painful physically for the senior righthander as he took two line drives off his body, including a shot off the knee from Nate Thompson that ended his day in the sixth inning. Thompson led the Warriors with two doubles and a single.
Scotty Bailey, Zach Doss, Leisge and Tyler Cornett each had singles for the 19-15 Bears.
Cornett closed the game on the mound, giving up one hit with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.
Central scored twice in the second inning to take the lead for good. Logan Johnson and Austin Schank had one-out singles and Jesse was safe on an error to load the bases. Jake Flanary drove in a run with a ground out and Mark Dotson brought in another with a single.
Leisge singled in the bottom of the second, and courtesy runner Dylan Cornett scored on a wild pitch.
Central answered in the third inning as Thompson doubled and came around to score on an errant throw from Cornett at first base on Alex Adkins’ infield hit.
Two Central errors to start the fifth inning put the Bears in position for a big inning. Harlan County was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, scoring only once on a two-out hit to right field by Doss.
HCHS didn’t threaten again as Jesse retired the next seven batters to end the game.
Harlan County closes its regular season schedule on Friday at Hazard before playing Harlan on Monday in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament at Middlesboro.
Central Wise021 001 0 — 4 9 2
Harlan County010 010 0 — 2 4 4
Jesse and Johnson; Leisge, Cornett (6) and Brendan Rutherford. WP — Jesse. LP — Leisge (6-3).