A few weeks earlier, the Middlesboro Lady Jackets watched a big lead slip away at home when Harlan County exploded with a seven-run seventh inning to rally for an 11-6 win.
The Lady Jackets returned the favor Monday, scoring six runs in the sixth inning to rally for a 7-6 victory.
“We hadn’t done anything since Thursday — we had prom and rain,” Middlesboro coach Luster Powers said. “It took us a while to adjust. We made the adjustments and had one good inning, which is all it takes sometimes. You want a good, competitive district and it’s been tough this year. Harlan is a tough team and Harlan County is tough.”
“I always preach about preventing the big inning and we didn’t,” said Harlan County coach Tim McElyea. “We’ve struggled on defense a lot this year. You can see the games we’ve lost have been traced back to mistakes. When you do that against our schedule, that’s what happens
Aubrey Sowders led the Lady Jackets’ seven-hit attack with two singles. Megan Gent, Madison Shields, Jamayha Poe, Brooke Foister and Bailey Woody added one single each.
Shields earned the win on the mound as she scattered nine hits while striking out three and walking five.
Harlan County junior right-hander Destinee Jenkins had limited the Lady Jackets to two hits through 4 2/3 innings and had a 3-1 lead when she was replaced by Kacie Russell, who retired Shields to get out of the fifth inning. The Lady Jackets jumped on Russell in the decisive sixth as four hits, an error and hit batsman turned the momentum in Middlesboro’s favor.
Foister and Woody had one-out singles sandwiched around Frazier getting hit by a pitch to load the bases. One run scored on an error and Hannah McCullough brought in another when she hit into a fielder’s choice. Gent singled in one run to tie the game at 4-4 before Sowders’ two-run single put Middlesboro ahead. Sheilds followed with an RBI single after Jenkins returned to the mound.
Freshman catcher Emily Long and senior outfielder Haley Blakley led the Lady Bears with two singles each. Jenkins, Russell, Lainey Cox, Hannah Johnson, Regan Caudill and T.C. Somersall contributed one single each.
Cox gave HCHS a 1-0 lead in the first inning as she singled, moved up on a hit by Long and scored on a wild pitch. Middlesboro pulled even in the third inning when Sowders reached on a two-out error and scored on Poe’s single.
Harlan County loaded the bases in the bottom of the third before Frazier ran down a line drive to right center to save at least two runs.
The Lady Bears broke through in the fourth as Long singled in two runs for a 3-1 lead. Blakley, Johnson and Somersall had hits in the fifth inning as HCHS extended its lead to 4-1.
Harlan County battled back in the seventh inning as Johnson reached on a fielder’s choice with two outs and came around to score when Caudill’s infield hit was kicked into the outfield by second baseman Morgan Gent. Caudill came around to score on a bad throw later in the play. Somersall swung and missed at what would have been ball four before grounding out to Woody at first base to end the game.
“We tried to give it away again at the end. It was lucky we got a good bounce to end the game,” Powers said.
The district loss was the first this year for the Lady Bears, who will take the top seed into next week’s 52nd District Tournament at Middlesboro and will play Bell County in the first round. The second-seeded Lady Jackets will play Harlan, a team they have defeated twice in three meetings.
“This loss didn’t hurt us. We’re still the top seed, McElyea said. “Middlesboro battles hard and they deserved to win today. Madison pitched well, especially late in the game. We had her on the ropes early but didn’t get enough done.”
The 14-8 Lady Jackets close their regular season schedule Thursday at home against Clay County. The 12-12 Lady Bears travel to Clay County on Tuesday.
Harlan County lost two of three games on Saturday in the Somerset/Pulaski County Showcase, falling to Mercer County and Pulaski County and defeating Russell County.
Lainey Cox had the only hit for HCHS in the 11-0 loss to Pulaski County.
Cox, Haley Blakley and T.C. Somersall had two hits each as the Lady Dragons held on to edge Russell County 9-8.
Harlan County fell 13-2 to Mercer County. Jenkins suffered the loss on the mound. No other information was available.
The Lady Bears lost 9-4 to Letcher Central in a previously unreported game that was cut short by rain.
Middlesboro 001 006 0 — 7 7 2
Harlan County 100 210 2 — 6 10 3
Shields and Sowders; Jenkins, Russell (5), Jenkins (6) and Long. WP — Shields. LP — Russell (3-6).
Harlan County 000 000 — 0 1 3
Pulaski County 400 313 — 11 12 0
Jenkins and Long; Wilson and Sheffer. WP — Wilson. LP — Jenkins (7-6). HR — Gavers.
Russell County 203 30 — 8 7 0
Harlan County 531 0x — 9 9 6
Wells and Johnson; Jenkins and Long. WP — Jenkins (8-6). LP — Well.
Harlan County 011 02 — 4 7 7
Letcher Central 330 3x — 9 9 0
Russell, Jenkins (4) and Long; Spangler and Wampler. WP — Spangler. LP — Russell (3-5).
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134