Nease wins showdown in district clash

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A victim of hard luck through much of his senior season, Harlan County right-hander Cameron Nease picked an opportune time to break through for his first win as he pitched a complete game in the Bears’ 4-2 victory Tuesday over visiting Middlesboro in the opener of a district doubleheader. Middlesboro bounced back with a 10-2 win in the nightcap.

Nease struck out three and walked only one as he made the Jackets put the ball in play, working around seven hits. Sophomore left fielder Justin Brown and senior right fielder Cameron Carmical each ran down line drives to help keep the Bears on top.

“He pitched a great game at Hazard a couple of weeks ago. He pitched well and we gave it away,” Harlan County coach John Lewis said. “I think Cameron has gained a little confidence and that is huge. That is where it starts. I don’t want to take anything away from them though because they hit about six balls right at us. If you look at it the paper tomorrow, it’s still an out, so we’ll take them any way we can get them.”

“We were hitting it right to them it seemed, but we didn’t help ourselves with runners in scoring position. It seemed like we had a lot of fly ball outs,” Middlesboro coach John Smith said. “We just didn’t get the job done, and they moved runners and got the key hits.”

The Bears got most of their offensive production from the top of the order as Benjamin Lewis had two doubles and Devon Rodrigues, in the leadoff spot, added a double and single. Hunter Goodwin also had a double and single, while Nease, Carmical and Tyler Casolari contributed one single each.

Jacob Mike and Chris Callihan led the Jackets with two singles each. Josh Arnold, Brad Short and Brandon Helton contributed one single each.

Senior right-hander Tyler McCullough, the Jackets’ ace for four years, gave up nine hits in a complete-game effort as he struck out three and walked none.

“It always comes down to good pitching when we face each other, and I don’t expect anything different in the second game,” Smith said.

“To me, McCullough has been one of the best players in the region for years and one of the top two pitchers, and we hit him,” Lewis said. “I love our confidence at the plate. They left over 20 runners on base the last couple of games. Today, they just broke out.”

Middlesboro scored first as Collier Elkins was safe on an error to open the game and came home on Mike’s single.

The Bears broke through in the third inning as Rodrigues and Lewis had back-to-back doubles with one out and Carmical followed with a two-out infield single as he beat Arnold, the first baseman, to the bag to allow Lewis to hustle around from second to score the go-ahead run.

Lewis doubled again in the fifth inning and scoed on Carmical’s hit for a 3-1 lead.

Middlesboro answered in the sixth as Callihan led off with a single, took third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on Arnold’s sacrifice fly.

Goodwin singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, moved up on Will Scott’s bunt and scored on Casolari’s single.

Nease gave up a leadoff single in the seventh but retired the next three Jackets to end the game.

Middlesboro bounced back in the nightcap as senior Jacob Spurlock pitched a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts and only two walks. The Jackets scored two runs in each of the first two innings and blew the game open with a five-run seventh inning.

McCullough led the Jackets at the plate with a double and three singles. Jacob Mike had two doubles. Spurlock, Callihan and Short added one single each.

Rodrigues had a double and scored both HCHS runs. Lewis added a single.

Carmical suffered the loss as he gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings. Lewis allowed four runs, all unearned, in 4 2/3 innings, while striking out seven and walking five. Jay Harris allowed two runs as he recorded the final two outs.

Harlan County (6-8) plays host to Lee, Va., on Thursday. Middlesboro (13-7) travels to Claiborne, Tenn., on Wednesday.

———

Middlesboro 100 001 0 — 2 7 1

Harlan County 002 011 x — 4 9 3

McCullough and Ausmus; Nease and Casolari. WP — Nease (1-2). LP — McCullough.

———

Middlesboro 220 001 5 — 10 9 0

Harlan County 101 000 0 — 2 2 6

Spurlock and Ausmus; Carmical, Lewis (2), Harris (7) and Casolari. WP — Spurlock. LP — Carmical (2-3).