HCHS edges Middesboro on 9th inning walkoff


Chris Jones

Brayden Blakley pitched a one-hitter Tuesday as Harlan County defeated Bell County 11-1.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Unable to finish off a district victory over Middlesboro in the seventh and eighth innings Monday, the Harlan County Black Bears got the job done in the ninth as Jonah Swanner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to send HCHS to an 8-7 win.
“I think we showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight to stay in the game,” Harlan County coach Drew Chamberlain said. “Tristan (Cooper) and Brayden (Blakley) both pitched very well and kept us in the game long enough to scratch out a win. We still are making too many mental mistakes and not putting the ball in play enough in key situations. But all of those mistakes are fixable. We just have to continue to work hard and try to improve each and every time we step foot on the field.”
Senior third baseman Zac Collett had a big night at the plate for the Bears with his game-tying home run in the seventh inning and a double in the eighth. Isaac Kelly also had a double. Cooper and Blakley each singled twice. Nate Shepherd, Karsten Dixon, Jacob Brown and Jonah Swanner had one single each.
Conner Mason led the Jackets with three singles. Tyler Harris, Lane Bayless, Riley Gent, Conner Winterberger, Yousiff Nabatt, Eric Helton and Kameron Wilson each had singles.
Shepherd gave the Bears an early 1-0 when he led off the game with a single and scored on a.wild pitch. The lead grew to 3-0 in the fourth inning as Kelly had a double and Cooper added a bunt single.
Cooper was in control of the game until the fifth inning until walking Case Bayless, the Jackets’ nine hitter, with two outs in the fifth. Middlesboro reeled off four two-hit outs after that, including two-run singles by Gent and Winterberger, to go up 5-3.
The Bears got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Winterberger hit four batters, including Kelly with the bases loaded.
Middlesboro scored two in the sixth on hits by Helton, Wilson and Mason and sacrifice fly by Harris for a 7-4 lead.
Dixon and Blakley had hits in the sixth and Jonah Swanner followed with a two-run single to cut the deficit to 7-6. Mason ran down shots by Shepherd and Josh Swanner to preserve the one-run lead, at least until Collett greeted Wilson with a solo shot over the fence in left to open the seventh.
HCHS loaded the bases with no outs after that Kelly reached on an error and Cooper and Brown followed with bunt hits. Wilson struck out the next three Bears help Middlesboro escape.
Josh Swanner was hit by a pitch in the eighth. He was picked off or may have scored on Collett’s two-out double.
Harlan County loaded the bases again in the ninth, this time with one out, before Swanner was hit by a pitch to bring in Brown with the winning run.
Cooper gave up seven runs on seventh hits in five innings, with seven strikeouts and five walks. Blakley pitched four shutout innings to earn the win as he struck out four and walked four.
The Bears improved to 5-6 overall and 3-0 in district action. The Jackets fell to 6-3 overall and 1-2 in district competition. The two teams will meet again Thursday in Middlesboro.
Middlesboro 000 052 000 — 7 9. 3
Harlan County 101 212 101 — 8. 11 2
Winterberger, Wilson (7), Winterberger (8) and Gent; Cooper, Blakley (5) and Kelly. WP — Blakley (2-0). LP — Winterberger.
Harlan County fell 17-7 at Shelby Valley on Friday.
Nate Shepherd led Harlan County on offense with a triple and double. Brayden Blakley singled twice. Zac Collett, Patrick Mandrelll and Jonah Swanner had one single each.
Shepherd suffered the loss as he gave up three runs on two hits in two innings. Karsten Dixon, Colby Johnson and Liam Garland also saw action on the mound.
Harlan County 150 01 — 7. 7. 1
Shelby Valley 034 46 — 17. 11. 5
Shepherd, Dixon (3), C. Johnson (4), Garland (5) and Kelly; Brown and Bentley. WP — Brown. LP — Shepherd (1-1).