Swanner ignites HCHS offense in comeback win over Harlan

Cooper fans 14 to earn win on mound


Kim Henson

Harlan County’s Tristan Cooper gave up two hits over 6 1/3 innings with 14 strikeouts as the Black Bears advanced to the 52nd District Tournament finals with a 10-3 win over Harlan.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

A Harlan County offense held to two hits the first two times through the order and trailing 3-0 was in desperate need of a clutch hit. Jonah Swanner responded with a bases-clearing triple in the fifth inning Monday that pushed the momentum in the Bears’ favor on the way to a 10-3 win Monday over Harlan in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament.
“Jonah struggled a little later in the season, but he’s one of the best hitters we have,” Harlan County coach Scotty Bailey said. “I knew he was due to do something, and that’s what it takes sometimes to get an offense going. When we get some momentum, we can be.a good team,”
Swanner led the Bears’ eight-hit attack with a triple and single for four RBI. Samuel Henson had the Bears’ only two hits through the first four innings against Harlan ace Dawson Irvin with a single and then a double to start a six-run fifth inning. Braydon Burton added a double, while Nathan Shepherd, Shawn Carroll and Alex Creech contributed one single each.
“Irvin pitched well. He kept us off balance,” Bailey said. “I told our guys they had to be patient. We battled all the way.”
Sophomore right-hander Tristan Cooper found himself down 3-0 even though he allowed only one infield hit. He gave up three unearned runs on two hits with 14 strikeouts and six walks in 6 1/3 innings. Colby Johnson recorded the final two outs with one strikeout and one walk.
“Tristan was a little wild early, but I was proud of him and the way he battled through some errors and adversity,” Bailey said. “He gave up those three runs but he kept his composure. He almost worked out of it, but then we had an error. He came back after that and shut them down the rest of the way.”
“We have to eliminate big innings. They had two big innings, and that was the difference in the game,” Harlan coach Lee Freyer said. “That’s been our Achilles heel all season. If we could have put a complete game together tonight, I like our chances.”
Irvin allowed six runs on three hits over 4 1/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and five walks. Evan Browning allowed four runs on five hits with two strikeouts and no walks over 1 2/3 innings.
Jaedyn Gist, Andrew Roark and Aiden Johnson had singles for the Dragons.
Harlan’s Jared Moore started the Dragons’ three-run third inning when he reached base after striking out when Will Cassim dropped Isaac Kelly’s throw to first base. John Mark Bryson and Browning walked to load the bases with no outs. Cooper almost worked out of trouble with two strikeouts before Roark ripped a single off Cassim’s chest. The Dragons cleared the bases on the play with the help of an errant throw to the plate.
Swanner tied the game with his bases-clearing triple, then scored the go-ahead run after getting caught in a rundown on Kelly’s ground ball. Burton’s RBI double pushed the HCHS lead to 6-3.
Carroll, Creech and Swanner had hits in the sixth inning to produce a run. Kelly brought in a run with a ground out, then Shepherd plated two more runs with his single into right field.
The Dragons ended the season at 13-16 in Fryer’s first year as head coach. The Dragons made it all the way to the All “A” regional finals and ended a long losing streak against Harlan County with a regular-season victory at HCHS.
“This group right here doesn’t give up, no matter the obstacle in front of them,” Freyer said. “They have given me everything they had all year. They give you all they’ve got, and I’m going to miss this group of seniors.”
The 10-18 Black Bears will play Middlesboro on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the 52nd District Tournament finals.
Harlan 003 000 0 — 3. 3. 2
Harlan County 000 064 x — 10. 8. 3
Irvin, Browning (5) and Lewis; Cooper, Johnson (6) and Kelly. WP — Cooper (5-1). LP — Irvin (4-4).


Middlesboro moved within one win of its sixth straight 52nd District title with a 12-2 win in five innings over Bell County on Monday at Harlan.
The Yellow Jackets capitalized on six errors and pounded out 11 hits, led by Eric Helton three RBI on a triple and two singles. Connor Winterberger added two doubles. Tyler Harris had a triple and single. Layne Baylee singled twice. Kameron Wilson and Warren Vaught added one single each.
Case Bayless pitched a four-hitter for the Jackets with three strikeouts and two walks.
Cole Hoskins, Jackson Walters, Dalton Stepp and Carter McCune had one single eahcfor the 8-17 Bobcats. Hoskins gave up five runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Blake Burnett allowed seven runs on six hits in two innings.
Middlesboro (16-10) will play Harlan County on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the district finals at Harlan. It will be the 10th meeting in the finals between the two schools in the 13 seasons since HCHS opened in the fall of 2008.
Bell County 010 01 — 2. 4. 6
Middlesboro 023 61 — 12. 11. 1
Hoskins, Burnett (3) and Walters; C. Bayless and Hale. WP — C. Bayless. LP — Hoskins.

Harlan’s Andrew Roark had a two-run single in the Green Dragons’ loss to Harlan County in the 52nd District Tournament. (Kim Henson)