Lady Bears rally for district title

Published 11:15 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

LOG MOUNTAIN — With seven titles in the 10-year history of the school, including three straight, the Harlan County Lady Bears are not unaccustomed to winning district championships. None, however, were quite so difficult as Wednesday’s hard-fought, walk-off 6-5 victory over the Harlan Lady Dragons at Bell Central.

“That was a little too close for comfort,” said Harlan County coach Tim McElyea after the Lady Bears battled back from a 5-1 deficit to win with two runs in the seventh inning. “We had one bad inning. I told them there was a long way to go. We chipped away at them.”

“We took an inning off in the third inning. There were three plays that should have been outs, but it was a lack of effort,” Harlan coach David Overbay said. “You can’t do that against teams like Harlan County. You have to play every play. We gave them three extra outs with two fly balls and a tag at short.”

Hannah Johnson and Emily Long, two standout sophomores in the middle of the HCHS lineup, each had three hits in four at bats and started the late rally as Johnson doubled and Long was safe on a single when Harlan pitcher Ashley Overbay and first baseman AnnMarie Bianchi collided on a pop up. Brandy Adams hit a hard shot back to the mound that bounced off Overbay, who threw it over the third baseman’s head in an attempt at a force out, allowing the tying run to score. Lainey Cox brought in the winning run with a ground ball to second baseman Angel Wynn, who threw home too late to get courtesy runner Rhileigh Alred.

“Those two have been hitting it all year,” McElyea said. “They have been our top two hitters most of the year. Emily also made two great throws to get people out at third.”

Jenkins had two singles for the Lady Bears. Adams added a double, while Cox and Kacie Russell each contributed one single.

Russell earned the win and tournament most valuable player honors as she allowed one run on four hits with one strikeout and one walk in four innings. Jenkins gave up four runs in a five-run second inning due to uncharacteristic wildness that led to four walks in three innings. She gave up three hits.

“Kacie came in and got some big outs for us, then Des came back and also got some outs,” McElyea said. “What a game. My hat is off to Overbay and Harlan. She threw a great game. Lainey came through when we needed her.”

Overbay suffered the loss as she allowed six runs on 10 hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

Jayda Young led Harlan at the plate with two singles. Haven Saylor, Kaitlyn Cornett, Savanna Smith, Bianchi and Katelyn Burkhart had one single each.

Harlan County scored first as Jenkins singled with one out and courtesy runner Destiny Clark came home on Johnson’s single to center.

Smith singled and Young was safe on a fielder’s choice to start the second inning. Consecutive walks to Angel Wynn, Bianchi and Burkhart forced in two runs and prompted a pitching change. Russell got Hannah Jones on an RBI groundout to third to make the score 3-1. Saylor singled in a run and Overbay was safe on an error for another run.

Harlan threatened again in the third inning, loading the bases before Russell recorded an out at the plate on a ground ball hit by Jones and then got Saylor on a fly out to left.

The Lady Bears fought back to within one with three runs in the third. Nikki Creech was hit by a pitch and Jenkins was safe on an error before Russell’s sacrifice fly. Johnson and Long followed with consecutive singles. Cox’s two-out hit to right cut the deficit to one before Overbay induced Emily Collett to fly out with the bases loaded.

Each team had threats in the fourth and fifth innings but came empty. HCHS had a runner on third with two outs in both innings before Overbay worked out of trouble, including a nice catch by Jones in right field despite a collision with Smith in center.

Harlan got the first two runners on in the sixth on walks before Russell retired the next three Lady Dragons.

Creech was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the sixth, then stole second and third. Overbay retired Jenkins on a pop up to first and Russell on a grounder back to the mound.

Harlan (14-7) was making its first appearance in a 52nd District Tournament championship game since 2006. The Lady Dragons haven’t won a district title since 2004.

“I thank the good Lord we had a good season and it’s still not over,” Overbay said. “I’m proud of them. They have worked hard. We have to minimize our mistakes and we have a shot in the region. When we play seven innings, we can beat some teams.”

Both teams advance to the 13th Region Tournament next week.

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Russell was joined on the all-tournament team by Cox, Jenkins, Johnson and Long. Overbay, Young, Cornett and Smith represented Harlan. Aubrey Sowders and Jamayha Poe were selected from Middlesboro. Makaya Baker and Madison Napier were selected from Bell County.

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Harlan 050 000 0 — 5 6 2

Harlan County 103 000 2 — 6 10 1

Overbay and Cornett; Jenkins, Russell (2), Jenkins (4), Russell (6) and Long. WP — Russell (4-0). LP — Overbay (14-7).

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Softball district finals

2018 HCHS 6, Harlan 5

2017 HCHS 11, Middlesboro 1

2016 HCHS 6, Middlesboro 2

2015 Middlesboro 11, HCHS 5

2014 HCHS 3, Middlesboro 0

2013 Middlesboro 4, HCHS 2

2012 HCHS 6, Bell County 1

2011 HCHS 2, Bell County 1

2010 HCHS 2, Bell County 0

2009 Middlesboro 9, HCHS 1