LONDON – If the Harlan County Lady Bears were going to knock off five-time champion North Laurel in the 13th Region semifinals coach Howard White knew his squad needed to stay close early and limit mistakes. They Lady Bears were unable to accomplish either on Wednesday as they fell 13-0 to the Lady Jaguars.
Senior Kristen Fields helped the Lady Jaguars get off to a strong start as she delivered a two-run blast over the fence in center field in the first inning. The Lady Jaguars later added more two runs on a throwing error to first base. Harlan County had three errors in the first inning.
“The only way you have a chance against these teams is if you don’t make mistakes. We started making them in the first inning and it went all the way through the game,” said White. “If we could weather the storm for the first inning or two we could get a little confidence. But, we got down 4-0 and they hit one out. We threw the ball over the plate and she just crushed it.”
The Lady Bears were never able to recover from the slow start and struggled to find an answer for North’s Megan Baldwin at the plate. The junior struck out eight batters and limited Harlan County to just one hit.
“We didn’t hit the ball. That pitcher is tough,” White said. “That is the best team we played all year.”
Junior Katie Johnson struck out one batter and gave up eight hits in the loss for Harlan County.
Freshman Amber Creech recorded the only hit with a single in the sixth inning. Creech also made several nice plays in the field in a solid outing.
“She is going to be a player. She is a good hitter. This is her first year out there. She will be a dandy in a year or two,” White said.
The lead swelled to 9-0 as the Lady Jaguars added five runs in the fourth inning. North Laurel closed the scoring with four more runs in the seventh.
Despite Wednesday’s disappointing loss, the Lady Bears should be among the region’s best teams next season. Harlan County returns every starter from this year’s roster.
“If you would have told me a month ago that we would be here playing North Laurel in the semifinals I would have said you were crazy. These kids have accomplished so much,” White said. “They never quit after players left the team. These young kids just kept battling and battling. I have never been more proud of a team.”
North Laurel (33-5) will face South Laurel in the 13th Region Championship today, while Harlan County closes the season at 18-14.
North Laurel 400 500 4 – 13 8 0
Harlan County 000 000 0 – 0 1 8
Baldwin and Johnson; K. Johnson and Robinson. WP - Baldwin. LP - K. Johnson. HR - North Laurel (Fields).