Harlan County’s reign over the 52nd District came to an end Wednesday, as the Lady Bears fell 4-1 to Middlesboro in the title game.
After winning three straight district championships, several mistakes kept Harlan County from a fourth title. The Lady Bears committed five errors, resulting in all four Middlesboro runs in the loss.
“We just had a couple of breakdowns defensively tonight. Sometimes those are the breaks,” said Harlan County coach Tim McElyea. “Not taking anything away from Middlesboro thought. They fought us and made our defense work. They are a good team. They are well coached.”
Harlan County opened the scoring with a run in the first inning.
Katie Johnson started the offense with a two-out single to short. Savannah Sergent followed with a single to third base. Tia King drove in courtesy runner Destinee Jenkins with single to left field.
The Lady Jackets answered with a run in the bottom of the third inning.
Bailey Hensley reached base on a walk. Hensley stole second base and scored on an errant pickoff attempt.
The Lady Jackets took their first lead with a pair of runs in the fifth inning.
Makayla Partin first reached on a one-out walk. Partin advanced to second on a wild pitch.Megan Prater then delivered a bunt single down the first base line. Prater stole second base to put two runners in scoring position. Johnson struck out Kelsie Hensley for the second out. However, Lauren Spurlock reached on a throwing error to first base in the next at-bat. Partin and Prater both scored on the play.
Middlesboro tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning.
Laura Durham reached base on an error. Durham advanced to third base on a groudout from Tiffany Howerton and later scored on a passed ball.
Harlan County was unable to generate much offensively after the third inning. The Lady Bears had just two hits from that point.
“It means a lot. It is about time we brought it back home,” said Middlesboro coach Luster Powers of the Lady Jackets first district championship since 2009. “It was a great ballgame.”
Partin struck out one batter, while scattering five hits in the complete-game victory for Middlesboro.
“She is tough. She never changes expressions. You never know when anything is bothering her. She keeps her cool. She is a gamer,” Powers said.
Sarah Evans paced Harlan County with a pair of singles. Johnson, King and Sergent each added a single.
Johnson recorded five strikeouts, while allowing two hits and walking three batters in the complete-game effort on the mound.
“Middlesboro is a good softball team. Look at their record and who they have played. I knew it was going to be a battle coming in,”said McElyea. “Katie did a good job on the mound. She gave up four unearned runs. What more can you want from your pitcher?”
Durham and Prater each singled for Middlesboro’s only hits.
Middlesboro (20-9) will face a district runner-up in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament next week, while Harlan County (17-12) will take on a district champion.
“All we can do is keep our head up and go in the region. We have to shake this off and try to be competitive in the region,” McElyea said. “We are still getting a trophy. We are still getting a trophy, and we have played about everybody in the region.”
Middlesboro’s Savanna Miracle was named the 52nd District Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The all-tournament team included: Bell County — Shasta Centers and Jessica Sanders; Harlan — Jourdan Ledford and Madison Noe; Harlan County — Tia King, Katie Johnson, Savannah Sergent and Kaitlyn Stittums; Middlesboro — Kelsie Hensley, Carissa Padgett, Makayla Partin and Megan Prater.
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Harlan County 001 000 0 — 1 5 5
Middlesboro 001 021 x — 4 2 2
K. Johnson and Robinson; Partin and Durham. WP — Partin. LP — K. Johnson.