Harlan has quietly been the most improved teams in the 13th Region for much of the softball season, but after a victory over traditional 13th Region power Middlesboro on Thursday, the Lady Dragons likely won’t be overlooked by anyone much longer.
Harlan trailed by three runs heading into the sixth inning before exploding for five runs to pull away for a 6-4 win in their final at-bat.
“I told the girls that if they play to their potential they can beat these teams, and they came through,” said Harlan coach Scott Lewis.
Middlesboro opened the scoring with a run in the first inning. Megan Prater reached base on an error and later scored.
Harlan answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Madison Noe reached base on a walk before scoring.
The Lady Jackets regained the lead in the top of the second inning. Tiffany Howerton started the offense with a double and later scored to give Middlesboro a 2-1 advantage.
The Lady Jackets pushed the lead to 4-1 with a pair of runs in the third inning. Carissa Padgett and Shae Moyers each scored in the inning.
Middlesboro maintained a three-run lead until the Lady Dragons exploded in the sixth inning.
“I knew Harlan was going to be hard to beat. I have been telling them all year that you can’t take this bunch for granted. I guess they didn’t listen,” said Middlesboro coach Luster Powers. “We didn’t capitalize when we needed to, and they came back and beat us. They didn’t give up and we did.”
Jourdan Ledford singled through short to lead off the sixth inning for the Lady Dragons. Madison Brewer followed with a single. Ledford then scored and Brewer advanced to third on a throwing error to second base. Brewer closed the gap to 4-3 as she scored when Heather Holland reached on an error. Holland stole second base and tied the game at four after she scored on single by Alyssa Mills. Crystal Goins then reached base on error to short and Mills advanced to second. Logan Brown grounded out to the pitcher, and Mills was thrown out at home for the second out.
Anna Karst delivered perhaps the biggest hit of the game when she singled to right field to drive in Goins and Noe.
“Anna was due. She is always a good hitter, and usually comes through,” Lewis said.
Several base-running errors ended a Middlesboro rally attempt in the seventh inning.
Taylor Powers led off the inning with a single to right field, but was thrown out attempting to steal second base. Center fielder Kristina Fields recorded the final out as she gunned down Howerton at home.
“We practice that throw from the outfield to home plate,” Lewis said. “Kristina made a great throw and Crystal is exceptional at home. She is tough.”
Karst had a double and a single to lead Harlan at the plate. Noe contributed two singles, and Holland, Fields, Ledford, Brewer, Mills and Goins each added a single.
Moyers led the Lady Jackets with a pair of singles. Padget and Howerton each contributed a double. Powers, Kelsie Hensley and Holly Bolton each added a single.
Noe struck out three batters in the complete-game victory on the mound.
“I am very proud of the way Madison pitched. We didn’t give up as many walks as we had been giving up. She responded well,” Lewis said.
Partin had three strikeouts in the loss for the Yellow Jackets.
Harlan (9-14 overall, 1-4 district) returns to action today at Williamsburg. Middlesboro (8-16, 3-3) will host Pineville.
Middlesboro 112 000 0 - 4 7 5
Harlan 100 005 x - 6 10 5
Partin and Hensley; Noe and Goins. WP-Noe. LP-Partin.