It was deja vu all over again in the 52nd District softball championship on Wednesday. For the third straight year, the Harlan County Lady Bears entered the game as a heavy underdog to Bell County, and for the third straight year they walked away with title, this time in a 6-1 victory over the Lady Cats.
“I’m proud of my bunch. They got up there and hit the ball. Everybody got the bat on the ball and that’s what I told them, he had to hit the ball.”
Junior right-hander Katie Johnson pitched a one-hitter and recorded 11 strikeouts to power the Lady Bears. She allowed two walks and hit a batter.
“These kids can play, and they believe in themselves,” said White. Johnson powered the Harlan County offense with two doubles. Savannah Sergent and Amber Creech each doubled once while Bethany Bellafatto singled.
“They deserved to win,” said Bell County coach J.W. Campbell. “They outplayed us. They’re a good softball team. It was probably the best softball game they’ve played this year.”
Rachel Yeary pitched the complete game for Bell County (25-9). She allowed five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“Offensively, was poor tonight,” said Campbell. “We struck out 11 times and that’s the first time all year that’s happened. Normally, we have four or five.”
Harlan County opened the scoring with one run in the first inning. Johnson opened the frame with a double and scored on an Bell County error.
The Lady Cats put the first two runners on base in the first inning, but Johnson had a pair of strikeouts and Jessica Sanders grounded out to end the inning.
Harlan County put the game away in the fifth inning with nine players batting and the Lady Bears scoring five runs on three hits. Johnson highlighted the inning with a two-run double to score Jessie Johnson and Creech. Kaitlyn Stittums reached on an error, scoring Katie Johnson. Stittums later scored on a wild pitch. Sergent followed with a hit scoring Megan Ramsey who walked.
Bell County avoided the shutout with its lone run in the sixth inning. The Lady Bobcats filled the bases. Sanders grounded out as Alisha Russell scored.
Two runners reached base in the seventh inning with one out, but Katie Johnson got Russell to popout and fanned Alex Gambrel to end the game.
“People have called her 10-cent pitcher and everything in the world since she’s started pitching,” said White of Katie Johnson. “I don’t know what else she has to do to gain any respect. She’s got my respect. She’s a pitbull.”
The Lady Bears have had several upperclassmen to leave the team during the season. “I’ve lost four seniors that quit and a junior that quit and people said we’re too young, but these kids can play and they believe in themselves,” added White. “It looks good down the road too.”
Harlan County and Bell County will return to action in the 13th Region Tournament at South Laurel next week.
Johnson, Ramsey, Sergent and Creech were named to the all-tournament team from Harlan County. Russell, Gambrel and Yeary were selected from Bell County. Harlan’s Kristina Fields and Crystal Goins were also picked while Erica Johnson and Taylor Powers represented Middlesboro.
Harlan County 100 050 0 — 6 5 2
Bell County 000 001 0 — 1 1 2
K. Johnson and Robinson; Yeary and Slusher. W—K. Johnson. L—Yeary.