Black Bears turn three on the way to victory over Leslie


Kim Henson

Harlan County third baseman Samuel Henson tagged Leslie County’s Caden Shepherd to complete a triple play in the second inning of Monday’s game. The Black Bears improved to 2-0 with a 10-3 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

With a second straight 10-run game in Monday’s 10-4 win over visiting Leslie County, the Harlan County offense appears to be quite a bit better than a year ago.
A triple play turned in the second inning was a good sign for an improving defense.
Karsten Dixon and Brayden Blakley combined on an 11-strikeout, two-walk night to place a check mark in the pitching category.
With everything working together, the Bears are 2-0, a drastic improvement from last year’s 1-14 start.
Junior catcher Isaac Kelly led the HCHS offense with a two doubles and two singles in four at bats. Alex Creech and Braydon Burton added two singles each. Tristan Cooper had one single.
Dixon pitched 4 1/3 innings to earn the win, giving up three runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and on walk. Blakley closed the game by striking out eight in 2 2/3 innings, giving up three hits while walking one.
Creech singled to open the game, moved to second on Blakley’s sacrifice and scored on Kelly’s double. Kelly scored when Cooper reached on an error.
Leslie threatened in the second inning when the first two hitters reached base, but that was before the Bears made what is believed to be history. Josiah Sparks hit a grounder to Creech at second, who threw to Blakley for one out before Blakley completed the double play by firing to Will Cassim at first base. When Cassim saw the Leslie runner go too far past third, he fired across the diamond to Samuel Henson for the triple play.
“A big focus point we emphasized this off-season was our defense, knowing the small things takes you a long way. Last year we just turned one double play. Our first game this year we turned two. That’s already a huge jump for us. I thought today was going to make three until I watched something I’ve never witnessed in high school ball. When Creech fielded that ball I had full confidence we would turn two, but when Will pulled off the bag hard looking to make the throw, he did it beautifully,” Harlan County coach Scott Bailey said. “I was pumped for them. That’s something they’ll always be able to talk about. The boys have been working hard and they’re learning and growing everyday, I appreciate the work they’re putting in. We still got a lot of work to do, but progress is always good to see.”
Blakley walked and Kelly singled to open the third inning as the Bears added a run when Cassim hit into a double play.
Leslie closed to within one run again with a run in the fourth inning. HCHS answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning as Burton singled and scored on Henson’s sacrifice fly followed by two Eagle errors for two more runs.
The Bears batted around in the sixth inning, scoring four runs with the help of hits by Creech, Kelly, Cooper and Burton.
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at home against Thomas Walker, Va.
Leslie County 001 110 0 — 3. 10. 8
Harlan County 201 304 x` — 10. 9. 3
Brock, Baker (6) and Hoskins; Dixon, Blakley (5) and Kelly. WP — Dixon (1-0)., LP — Brock. SV — Blakley (1).



Harlan County senior Karsten Dixon earned the win on Monday as he allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings as the Bears coasted to a 10-3 victory over visiting Leslie County. (Kim Henson)