Black Bears complete district sweep of Harlan


Chris Jones

Harlan County’s Karsten Dixon took a throw from pitcher Brayden Blakley as Shane Lindsey hustled back to first base.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Coming off an 11-2 win a night earlier at Harlan, the Harlan County Black.Bears watched several scoring opportunities pass them by in the rematch Tuesday at HCHS.
The Bears left six runners stranded in the opening three innings and found themselves down 1-0 before finally cashing in with a three-run fourth inning and a two-run fifth on the way to a 6-3 victory.
“I think maybe their bellies felt a little full from yesterday. That’s typical teenagers, but they turned it on when they had to turn it on and put some pressure on them,” Harlan County coach Drew Chamberlain said.
Brayden Blakley followed Tristan Cooper’s lead from a night earlier as he pitched six strong innings, giving up two runs on five hits seven strikeouts and three walks to earn the win. Colby Johnson gave up a run in the seventh inning before striking out the final two batters he faced to close out the win.
“Brayden pitched well. He came out and threw strikes,” Chamberlain said. “He’s working his way back from the shoulder surgery, but he threw well.”
Evan Browning allowed five runs on eight hits in four-plus innings, with three strikeouts and three walks. Noah Lewis gave up one run in two innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
Nate Shepherd led the Harlan County offense with two singles from the leadoff spot. Zac Collett, Isaac Kelly, Tristan Cooper, Blakley and Braydon Burton added one single each.
Browning, Shane Lindsey, Jaeden Gist, John Mark Bryson and Donovan Montanaro each had one hit for the Dragons, who were much better at getting the bat on the ball than a night earlier when they were held to one hit.
“I thought about it this morning and I hung a little sign up in the dugout that I wanted 110 percent and for us to be aggressive. I told them we were going all gas and no breaks as much as we can,” said Harlan assistant coach Lee Freyer, who was in charge of the team with coach Cory Estep out with illness. “We tried some hit and runs that didn’t work, but I thought we did a good job on the base paths. I thought Blakley gave them some good innings on the mound. It’s good to see a kid like that come back from an injury.
“I told the boys it’s a marathon and not a sprint. We haven’t played in two years. I know everyone is going through that, but we didn’t have very many who played two years ago, so we’re learning as we go. We just need to clean the errors up.”
Gist’s speed produced the first run of the game as he beat out an infield hit, then took third on an errant pickoff throw from Blakley and scored on John Mark Bryson’s ground out to second base.
Harlan County finally broke though in the bottom of the inning. Blakley led off with a single, then Braydon Burton beat out a bunt hit and the first run scored when the throw from third went into the outfield. Shepherd singled and Collett walked, setting the stage for Kelly’s go-ahead two-run single.
Harlan loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on an error and singles by Montanaro and Browning. Mills grounded into a force out for the second out, but Blakley walked Lindsey to force in a run before striking out Gist.
HCHS added two runs in the bottom of the fifth when Trey Barnes dropped Shepherd’s fly ball in right field with runners on second and third. Browning walked Cooper and Blakley to open the inning, then was replaced on the mound by Noah Lewis, who appeared to work out of the jam before the error.
Harlan County scored.a run in the sixth when Collett led off with a walk and scored on a wild pitch.
Donovan Montanaro walked to lead off the seventh inning, then eventually scored on Browning’s ground out to first base.
Harlan County (4-5) plays host to Cumberland Gap, Tenn. on Thursday. Harlan (2-6) travels to Whitley County on Thursday.
Harlan 000 110 1 — 3. 5. 2
Harlan County 000 321 x — 6. 8. 2
Browning, Lewis (5) and Lewis, Gist (5); Blakley, C. Johnson (7) and Kelly. WP = Blakley (1-0). LP — Browning (0-2).

Harlan’s Evan Browning delivered a pitch in Tuesday’s game at Harllan County. The Black Bears won 6-3. (Chris Jones)