In a showdown of aces in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament on Monday, Clay County’s Tanner Hoskins won the battle and helped Clay County win the war as the Tigers avenged a loss in last year’s first round by knocking off Harlan County 4-1.
Hoskins, a senior righthander, kept the Bears off stride all night with a steady diet of curveballs on the outside corner. He scattered five hits while striking out seven and walking two.
“Tanner was on tonight. He threw great,” Clay County coach Jason Smith said. “His curveball is his out pitch. It’s his best pitch, and tonight he was really spotting it well, middle away. He gave them fits tonight.”
Hoskins hadn’t pitched very much of late, due to a sore elbow.
“We tried to slow him down a little bit and tried to get his arm in shape. He ran through a little tendinitis, but he was awfully good tonight,” Smith said.
Harlan County senior Connor Leisge suffered the loss as he gave up four runs on eight hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
Clay broke through for the game’s first two runs in the third inning. Nathaniel Huff singled, stole second and scored on Dylan Garrison’s RBI single. Garrison took second on the throw home and scored when Nathan Sizemore ripped a single to left. Leisge worked out of the jam by retiring Dustin Gross and Trevor Sams on ground balls.
Harlan County threatened in the bottom of the inning when Leisge doubled with one out. Courtesy runner Dylan Cornett stole third but was left stranded there when Zach Doss flied out to right field.
The Tigers added two more runs in the fourth inning as Tanner Smith, Adam Carnahan and Nathaniel Huff led off with singles to load the bases with no outs. Leisge almost worked out of the jam, striking out John Sizemore and Garrison, but Sizemore hit a two-run double to push the lead to three runs.
The Bears finally broke through in the fourth inning as Tyler Cornett led off with a single, and courtesy runner Gage Burkhart moved to second on Brendan Rutherford’s sacrifice and scored when Chance Brown’s single skipped past Sams in left field.
Harlan County threatened several times throughout the game but continually came up empty, including the seventh inning when Leisge walked with two outs and Bailey was safe on an error. Doss grounded out to third base to end the game.
Freshman Jared Sizemore pitched one shutout inning in relief for the Bears, who ended the season at 21-17 with their sixth straight regional tournament appearance. Harlan County lost to North Laurel in last year’s championship game.
Clay County (21-17) will play Corbin (17-14) on Tuesday at 7:45 in the semifinals. South Laurel (25-8) will take on North Laurel (25-11) in the opening game at 5:30. The championship game is set for Thursday at 7 with the winner advancing to the state tournament
Clay County 000 000 0 — 4 8 2
Harlan County002 200 0 — 1 5 1
Hoskins and Gross; Leisge, Sizemore (7) and Brendan Rutherford. WP — Hoskins. LP — Leisge (7-4).