Lady Bears continue transformation from early-season struggles with fourth-straight win


Kim Henson

Madison Blair was the winning pitcher and contributed three hits from the leadoff spot as Harlan County won 11-5 at Harlan on Monday.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

From 12 errors in their season-opening loss to Pineville in mid March to an error-free effort in early May in an 11-5 win Monday at Harlan, the Harlan County Lady Bears have clearly come a long way as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season.
“We knew after the Pineville game that we had to do a better job in the field, and they showed tonight how hard they’ve been working,” Harlan County coach Shelby Burton said.
Junior third baseman Hailey Austin had several nice plays on defense, retiring Harlan’s top hitter, Addison Jackson, on a pair of line drives. Rylie Maggard ran down an Ella Farley shot in center to end the sixth inning and Lesleigh Brown had two nice catches in left field.
“I told the girls some times you can do everything you are supposed to do,” Harlan coach David Overbay said. “They are showing up every day and working. We hit the ball hard and Harlan County made the plays on defense. Hats off to them. We just have to keep working. We’ll get there. It’s a process.”
Harlan County pounded out 16 hits with seven Lady Bears reaching the hit column, led by Jenna Wilson with a double and two singles and Madison Blair and Maggard with three singles each. Brittleigh Estep contributed a triple and single. Halle Raleigh had a double and single. Jade Burton singled twice. Austin added a single.
“It’s been a balance throughout the year,” Burton said. “We’ll have one or two down and one or two up, but I feel on any given night we have one through nine who could come up with a big hit. We’ve got girls who hadn’t seen a varsity pitch to start the season but are coming up with doubles and triples. We hit pretty consistently and have since the middle of the season. They are so young, but you could see it starting to turn and there is still a lot more to be excited about.”
Ava Nunez led the Lady Dragons with three singles in four at bats. Ella Lisenbee had two triples and two RBI. Farley added an RBI single.
Nunez gave Harlan an early 2-0 with a two-run single in the first inning.
Maggard singled and scored on Estep’s triple in the HCHS second. Austin’s ground out tied the game. Raleigh doubled and scored on Blair’s hit for a 3-2 lead.
Lisenbee tied the game with an RBI triple in the bottom of the second, bringing home Mallory McNiel after she walked.
Blair’s RBI single in the fourth inning put HCHS back on top, but Harlan answered with two runs on an RBI triple by Lisenbee followed by an RBI single from Farley.
HCHS took command with a five-run fifth inning. Maggard, Estep and Austin opened the inning with consecutive singles for the first run. Estep scored on the front end of a double steal. Blair, Wilson and Maggard also had RBI hits.
Maggard and Raleigh each had RBI hits in the sixth inning to close the scoring.
Blair earned the win as she gave up two runs on three hits over four innings in relief with one strikeout and one walk. Estep pitched the first three-plus innings, giving up three runs on three hits with two strikeouts and three walks.
Carley Thomas pitched a complete game for Harlan, giving up 11 runs on 16 hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
The Lady Bears clinched at least second in the district with a 4-1 record with one game left at Middlesboro. Harlan fell to 0-4 in district action with a game left at home against Middlesboro and at Bell County.
Harlan County (10-16) will play at North Laurel on Tuesday. Harlan (4-17) will play host to Middesboro on Tuesday.
Harlan County 030 152 0 — 11 16. 0
Harlan 210 200 0 — 5. 6. 2
Estep, Blair (4) and Burton; Thomas and Jackson. WP — Blair (7-12). LP — Thomas (4-17).