In a season filled with ups and downs, the Harlan County Black Bears reached a new high Saturday at West Jessamine in a 9-7 win over the Colts, the state’s third-ranked team.
Harlan County bounced back from an ugly 10-2 loss Thursday at Clay County by upsetting West Jessamine on its home field. Two big innings carried the Bears with four runs in the second inning and five in the sixth. Junior second baseman Zach Doss ignited the offense with his second homer of the season.
“Everybody kind of fed off that home run and our confidence went out the roof,” Harlan County coach John Lewis said. “Sawyer (Fields) made some big plays in center field. The wind was really blowing hard to left field.”
Senior right-hander Connor Leisge pitched a complete game to earn the win, overcoming five errors that led to four unearned runs. Leisge struck out four and walked while giving up seven hits.
“Connor battled the whole game,” Lewis said. “I thought we executed real well on the bases and laid down some bunts. All nine of our guys in the lineup executed.”
Freshman catcher Brendan Rutherford had three singles in four at bats to lead the HCHS offense. Chance Brown added two singles. Scotty Bailey and Sawyer Fields added one single each.
Doss hit a two-run homer in the first inning, his second of the season, as the Bears rallied from a two-run deficit to go up 4-2 in the second inning.
The Bears were tied 4-4 when they scored five runs in the sixth inning. Brendan Rutherford, Brown, Fields and Bailey had consecutive singles as HCHS built a 9-4 lead. West Jessamine scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded before Leisge worked his way out of trouble. Leisge worked his way out of several jams in a gutty 132-pitch effort against the 21-4 Colts.
Christian Beckley and Max Mahon had homers against Leisge to lead the Colts’ offense. Trey Merida and Tucker Greer, the top two hitters in the West Jessamine order, each reached base three times and scored two runs.
Harlan County was unable to build on the momentum in the second game Saturday, falling 8-2 to Wayne County. The 12-10 Cardinals blew the game open with a five-run fifth inning after HCHS had pulled to within a run, at 2-1.
The Bears outhit Wayne 10-8, led by three hits each from Leisge and Bailey. Jared Sizemore, Burkhart, Brown and Brendan Rutherford added one hit each.
Tyler Cornett suffered the loss as he gave up two runs on three hits in one inning with one strikeout and no walks. Sizemore allowed five runs (two earned) on three hits in 3 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and three walks. Sawyer Fields gave up a run on two hits in one inning with two strikeouts and no walks.
Harlan County (16-12) plays host to Letcher Central on Monday at 6.
Harlan County040 005 0 — 9 8 5
West Jessamine 200 203 0 — 7 7 6
Leisge and Brendan Rutherford; Leonard, Merida (4), Greer (7) and Ward. WP — Leisge (5-2). LP —Merida.
Harlan County000 010 1 — 2 10 2
Wayne County 200 051 x — 8 8 2
Cornett, Sizemore (2), Fields (5) and Brendan Rutherford; Smith, Gillespie (6) and Corder. WP — Smith. LP — Cornett (3-4).