LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—North Laurel scored five first inning runs, then held off a furious Harlan County comeback to beat the Lady Black Bears, 7-5, in the semifinals of the 13th Region softball tournament at Whitley County.
With the win, the Lady Jaguars advanced to last night’s final against cross-town rival South Laurel. The winner of that game advances to the KHSAA state tournament in Owensboro.
“In the first inning we came out and did what we needed to do,” coach Kyle Mink said. “Small ball got some runs for us and we capitalized on their mistakes.” The Lady Black Bears committed two errors in the first inning.
With one out, Kayla Huff was hit by a pitch from Destiny Jenkins. Kailin Yantz followed with a single to put two runners on for Mikayla Vires, who singled to left to drive home Huff for the 1-0 lead.
NaTasha Colwell followed with a single to right where the ball got past the Middlesboro outfielder which allowed Yantz to score. Olivia Miller followed with a bunt single where Middlesboro committed another error on the throw to second, allowing three runs to score and make it 5-0.
Harlan County battled back, scoring two runs in the top of the second off Vires to cut the lead to 5-2.
Vires hit Savannah Sergent to lead off the second, then gave up back-to-back singles to Tia King and Bridget Robinson to load the bases. Mallory Johnson then hit into a fielder’s choice, and Sergent beat the throw home. Robinson later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Chyanna Harris to make it 5-2.
Harlan County had a chance to do some more damage in the third inning when it had two runners on with two outs, but Vires got Robinson to ground out to end the inning.
The Lady Jaguars added another run in the bottom of the third as Vires led off with a single to left, and Baxley Jackson came in to run for the North pitcher. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Colwell then scored on a single by Abbey Proffitt to up the lead to 6-2.
Back came the Lady Black Beats, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 6-5. Farren Clark led off with a triple and Sergent had an RBI double in the inning.
Now leading by just one, McKenzie Mills led off the bottom of the sixth with a triple to center. Huff followed with a walk and when she stole second, Mills broke for home and scored easily to make it 7-5.
“Leading off that inning with a triple by Mills to start the inning allowed us to get a run and put a little more distance between us and Harlan,” Mink said.
Vires retired the side in the top of the seventh as North Laurel advanced to the championship game.
“Hats off to Harlan County,” Mink said. “They played us well, swung the bats and hit it hard. We didn’t make some plays but we made enough to win the game.”
Mink said he knows the final against South Laurel will be an emotional game.
“It’s a cross-town rivalry and both teams have been there before,” Mink said. “We just have to control our emotions, put pressure on them and see what happens.”