Green Dragons run their way past HC in district showdown


Kim Henson

Harlan’s Evan Browning slid into third base ahead of the throw to Harlan County’s Shawn Carroll in Monday’s game. Browning had two hits, scored two runs and stole two bases in the Dragons’ 7-4 victory.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Multi-sport athletes with speed to burn, Evan Browning and Jaedyn Gist provide quite a 1-2 punch at the top of the Harlan order. They proved to be a massive problem for the Harlan County Black Bears on Monday, creating havoc on the bases in sparking the Dragons to a 7-4 win that pulled them even with HCHS for second in the 52nd District standings at 3-2 heading into a rematch Tuesday at Harlan.
“We spend 20 to 30 minutes every day working on steals, working on jumps. They really take to it and enjoy that part of it, putting pressure on people,” Harlan coach Lee Freyer said.
Browning and Gist teamed for three hits, three runs, three RBI and four stolen bases while pushing the Bears into numerous mistakes.
“We timed them in the 60 earlier this year and both of them are sub 7 guys,” Freyer said. “They can both scoot on the bases, and they’re savvy. They have a good baseball IQ.”
“There were some things we fell apart on. We kind of got lost in a couple of different things,” Harlan County coach Scotty Bailey. “We had talked about it, but we’re extremely young in the infield. They got lost a little, and Harlan played a good game. They took some chances and it worked for them. We have to be ready for it next time and learn from this. We’ll see that kind of heart we have tomorrow. I don’t think we were ready for today and that’s on me.”
The top two hitters caused plenty of problems but they weren’t the only weapons in the Harlan lineup. Senior third baseman John Mark Bryson had a double and two singles from the nine-spot in the order.
“It’s not always the worst hitter in a lineup hitting ninth. We want someone to roll you over to the top of the lineup in that nine spot and John Mark has embraced that role,” Freyer said. “He is a great hitter with two strikes. We’ve really focused on our hitting as a team after the Middlesboro loss last week. I’m glad to see them take what we practiced on out to the field, and, hopefully, we can do that tomorrow.”
Andrew Roark, Browning and Aiden Johnson added two singles each in Harlan’s 12-hit attack. Dawson Irvin had a double, while Gist and Noah Lewis added singles for the 9-11 Green Dragons.
Irvin earned the win as he struck out 11 and walked three while giving up six hits over 6 2/3 innings. Browning walked two and struck out one as he recorded the final out.
Jonah Swanner and Nathan Shepherd had two singles each for the 5-15 Black Bears. Isaac Kelly added a double. Alex Creech contributed a two-run single.
“That’s a good hitting team,” Freyer said. “Their record does not indicate the kind of schedule they’ve played. They have seen some phenomenal pitchers. Dawson pitched well and kept it low and away for most of the night. He didn’t give up any big innings.”
Brayden Blakley gave up seven runs on 12 hits with eight strikeouts and three walks in six-plus innings on the mound. Colby Johnson allowed one hit and struck out two in one inning on the mound.
The two teams play against Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Harlan in the final regular-season district game for both.
Harlan 001 022 2 — 7. 13. 5
Harlan County 000 310 0 — 4. 6. 4
Irvin, Browning (7) and Lewis; Blakley, Johnson (7) and Kelly. WP — Irvin (3-3). LP — Blakley (3-2). Sv — Browning.

Dawson Irvin pitched a six-hitter with 11 strikeouts as Harlan won 7-4 on Monday at Harlan County. (Kim Henson)