Cooper, Blakley power Bears to season-opening win over Barbourville


Ernie Sexton

Harlan County junior Tristan Cooper gave up only two hits over five shutout innings Thursday as the Black Bears opened the season with 10-0 win over visiting Barbourville.

With Tristan Cooper pitching a two-hitter over five innings and the Harlan County offense pounding out 11 hits, the Black Bears opened the 2023 season in dominating fashion Thursday with a 10-0 win in six innings over visiting Barbourville.
“In the opening game you know there are going to be a lot of mistakes, but I was proud of the boys tonight. They got the jitters out, got comfortable and played ball,” Harlan County coach Scott Bailey said. “We had 11 hits tonight, which is something we talked a lot about, putting ourself in positions where our hitting is winning us games and not just our pitching. I think we did a good job on the basepaths tonight. We got some good jumps, stole some bases (six) and had a great push bunt that scored a runner from second. I love seeing them enjoy some small ball”
Cooper struck out six and walked four over five innings to earn the victory. Brayden Blakley pitched one shutout inning of relief with two strikeouts and one walk.
“I thought Cooper looked great tonight,” Bailey said. “He had some good pop on his ball and threw his off speed well. Blakley came in and gave us a great inning. That’s exactly what we’re going to need out of him. His ball had some speed behind it and his curve ball is one of the best I’ve seen. He was throwing well. I was proud of both of them. Biggest thing we preach as a pitching staff is limit the walks. I think we have the defense behind us now that we can make some good plays. Defensively we had two double plays, one by Sammy Henson stepping on the bag and throwing the runner out at first that gave us some momentum to get the bats going. Then Blakley and Creech turned two in the middle and that got the momentum back up. We just had one double play last year in the infield, so seeing that tonight was a great sign. Defensively, I think we can make some plays, I’m excited to see how these boy continue to grow all year.”
Blakley led the Bears on offense with a triple and two singles, along with three runs and three RBI. Isaac Kelly drove in two runs with a double and single. Alex Creech had two singles in the leadoff spot and scored three runs. Tyler Lunsford, Samuel Henson, Aiden Craig and Cooper added one single each.
Sam Buchanan and Jaxon Collins had hits for the Tigers.
The Bears took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Blakley and Kelly were hit by pitches and scored when Braydon Burton reached on an error.
Creech and Blakley each singled to open the fourth inning with Creech scoring on Blakey’s hit. Kelly doubled to drive home Blakley for a 4-0 lead.
Kelly singled home a run in the fifth inning, bringing in Creech after he reached on a fielder’s choice.
Burton walked to open the sixth inning, stole second and scored on Henson’s bunt single. Creech singled home Henson for a 7-0 lead. Blakley tripled home two runs, including Kaden Boggs, who had walked. Craig ended the game with a single for the 10-run mercy rule.
Harlan County returns to action Friday at Williamsburg.
Barbourville 000 000 — 0 2. 3
Harlan County 200 215 — 10. 11. 1
Sowders, West (4), Clark (6) and Buchanan; Cooper, Blakley (6) and Kelly. WP — Cooper (1-0). LP — Sowders.