The Harlan County Black Bears seem to bring out the best in the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets. Brian Hale fired a one-hitter and drove in two runs, Tyler Prater homered and Brandon Hale delivered a walk-off single to lead the Jackets to a 10-0 six inning win on Monday.
Middlesboro (9-6, 3-0 in district play) has now three of the last four games in the series and owns a 9-4 mark against the Bears since the school opened in 2009.
“Since they’ve came into the district it’s turned into a big rivalry for some reason, probably even moreso than us and Bell County,” said Jacket coach John Smith. “Guys were pumped up and played the best game we’ve played all season. They executed, played great defense and got an outstanding performance from Brian Hale.”
Hale was masterful. He struck out eight over six innings and faced the minimum through five. Sawyer Fields walked with one out in the third but was picked off. Fields broke up Hale’s no-hitter with one out in the top of the sixth as he lined a hanging curve into center for a single. James Bond bunted him over to second, but Hale came back to strike out Blake Rutherford to end the inning.
Harlan County’s Scotty Bailey was also sharp early on. He hit Hale with a pitch with two out in the first, but that was the only runner he allowed until two were out in the third. He finished with three strikeouts over 4-1/3 innings while giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits, two walks and a hit batter.
Jake Brock stroked a base hit to right for Middlesboro’s first hit with two down in the third, Tyler Yoakum singled to left and Hale followed with a sharp grounder through the left side for an RBI single and a 1-0 MHS lead.
Prater made it 2-0 with one out in the fourth when he jerked a solo homer over the left field fence.
Middlesboro broke the game open with five runs in the fifth. Jesse Hoskins drew a lead off walk and one out later Yoakum singled to right to end Bailey’s night on the mound. Hale pulled an RBI single to left off Dylan Cornett and courtesy runner Van Ball and Yoakum pulled off a double-steal to put runners at second and third with two out. Brandon Hale reached on an error as Yoakum scored and walks to Prater and Lucas Crawford forced in another run to make it 5-0. Brandyn Ball then reached on another error as two more runs scored as the lead swelled to 7-0.
“We had no errors after a game Friday night with nine errors, so that was a big change. Lucas Crawford stepped in at shortstop and played a good game there for us,” Smith added. “One through nine we just swung the bat, put the ball in play, ran the bases well and did the things you need to do to win.”
The Jackets put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Brock started the inning by getting hit by a Jared Sizemore pitch and advanced to third on an error. Yoakum was safe on a fielder’s choice grounder as Brock was held at third. One out later John Millett singled to center to bring in Brock, Millett advanced to second on an error in the outfield as Yoakum also scored. Brandon Hale’s RBI single back up the middle brought Millett home with the game-ending run.
Harlan County (15-7, 2-1) will host Middlesboro today as the series continues.
“It’s a big rivalry. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble being up and ready to go (today),” Smith said. “We’ll have Crawford on the mound. He beat them twice last year — one-hit them up at their place, beat them in the district championship.
“I’m hoping we turned a corner with this one. Like I said, guys were excited to be at the ball park today, we just need to bring that same enthusiasm the rest of the season.”
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Harlan Co. 000 000 — 0 1 4
Middlesboro 001 153 — 10 8 0
Bailey, Cornett (5), Sizemore (6) and Boggs; Hale and Prater. W-Hale. L-Bailey. HR-Prater (M).