Kelly’s hit sends Bears to 8-inning win at Bell


Isaac Kelly had a two-run single in the eighth inning to lift Harlan County to a 7-4 win at Bell County.

After struggling to maintain leads through an ugly start this season, the Harlan County Black Bears are starting to show some grit during a winning streak that reached three with a hard-fought 7-4 victory in eight innings on Tuesday at Bell County.
HCHS led 2-0 after only one inning and was up 4-1 going into the sixth inning when Bell pulled even. The Bobcats had the bases loaded with one out, but Harlan County pitcher Tristan Cooper worked out of the jam.
With Bell starter Cole Hoskins almost at the 120-pitch limit, Blake Burnett came on to start the seventh. He retired the Bears in order on only 10 pitches but ran into trouble in the eighth when Alex Creech walked with one out and Shawn Carroll singled. With a 3-0 count on Jonah Swanner, Bell coach Clay Carroll went to Cooper Brock, presumably to save Burnett for the rematch Wednesday at Harlan County as he neared the 25-pitch limit that would make him ineligible to pitch on two straight days. Swanner drew a walk to load the bases, then sophomore catcher Isaac Kelly came up with the game’s biggest hit by driving a pitch into left field for two runs. Swanner added an insurance run by stealing home.
“These boys have faced a lot of adversity this season — injuries, sickness, and a tough schedule. But tonight they showed how well they have been dealing with that all season,” Harlan County coach Scotty Bailey said. “We worked out of some big jams. The big thing for us tonight was not producing when we have runners in scoring position. We had bases loaded back-to-back innings and got no runs out of it with less than two outs each time. We’ve got to produce in those situations. I’m proud of the boys tonight.They continued to battle and didn’t let a bad inning get to them. They kept their heads up and battled. All district games are tough. It’s good to see them face that adversity and overcome it.”
Cooper was almost out of pitches himself going into the bottom of the inning, but he retired Burnett on one pitch and Brock on two and then struck out Holden Clark to end the game. The sophomore right-hander gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits with 16 strikeouts and two walks.
“Cooper threw a heck of a game, I’m proud of him. When he gets in his zone he’s scary,” Bailey said. :He has taken what I’ve been preaching to the pitchers serious about no free baseball. Walks can kill you, and I think tonight he just had two. His last two games having 14 Ks and now tonight having 16 is awesome, I’m proud of him.”
Kelly led the 4-14 Bears with three hits and three RBI. Carroll added two singles. Swanner had a triple and scored twice. Will Cassim, Brayden Blakley, Braydon Burton and Nathan Shepherd added one single each.
“Isaac is seeing the ball good. He struggled early this season, but I kept preaching to him it will come just keep doing the right things and now he’s one if not our top hitter, I’m proud of his performance tonight at the plate and behind it,” Bailey said.
Burnett led the 7-6 Bobcats with three hits. Carter McCune and Brock each had two hits. Jackson Walters added one hit.
Hoskins allowed four runs in six innings. Burnett allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings. Brock recorded the final two outs.
The two teams play again on Wednesday at 6 at HCHS.
Harlan County 200 110 03 — 7 10. 1
Bell County 000 103 00 — 4. 8. 3
Cooper and Kelly; Hoskins, Burnett (7), Brock (8) and Walters. WP — Cooper (2-1). LP — Burnett.