By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning of a 2-2 tie, North Laurel’s Marcus Carson drew a walk off Harlan County pitcher Conner Leisge. Coaches hate giving up two-out walks, especially to a player with the speed of Carson.
The lone North Laurel senior stole second, then came home when Ethan Maxey tripled to right, giving the Jaguars a 3-2 lead.
Carson then took over on the mound for the final two innings, holding the Black Bears at bay to wrap-up a successful senior night for the University of Kentucky signee.
“That’s a good way for his senior night to finish,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said. “It’s amazing what he means to this team.”
Carson also led off the bottom of the first for North Laurel (18-11-1) with a double and scored on a double by Maxey. Maxey came home when Austin Thompson grounded out to second to tie the game, 2-2.
“This was a good win for us,” McWhorter said. “I was kind of expecting a district and region tournament atmosphere, and that’s what we got. Harlan County is a good, solid team.” The win avenged an earlier season 5-4 loss to the Black Bears at Harlan County.
North Laurel used three pitchers in the win, as Logan Mallory started the game and went two innings, giving up two runs on three hits, all in the first inning as Harlan County jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Zach Hurley came in and pitched the next three innings, allowing no runs or hits to get the win. Carson came in to pick up the save.
Harlan County countered with Tyler Cornett, who went four innings before giving way to Leisge. The game was tied 2-2 when Cornett left, as Leisge was saddled with the loss.
Tyler Boggs led off the game for Harlan County with a single to left, but was thrown out when he tried to steal second. After Andrew Dozier struck out, Scotty Bailey laced to triple to right-center. Mallory then walked the next two batters to load the bases for Zach Doss, who beat out an infield single which allowed Chad Massingill, who was running for Boggs, to score as Maxey couldn’t handle the throw home. He quickly gathered in the loose ball and fired it to third, where the ball got away, allowing James Bond to score to make it 2-0.
After North tied the game, it was time for the Jaguar defense to shine.
In the top of the second, Zach Jenkins led off with high pop up into foul territory in shallow right field. First baseman Jake McWhorter and right fielder Thompson both raced for the ball, with Thompson making the catch before colliding with McWhorter. Thompson was able to hold on and neither player was injured.
On the next play, Carson robbed Blake Rutherford of extra bases with a beautiful diving catch in center.
Then in the seventh, Leisge grounded to McWhorter at third. He fielded the ball but his throw to first skipped, where Mallory made a nice scoop for the out.
“That pick by Logan probably saved the game,” McWhorter said. “And both catches by Marcus and Austin were key plays. Our defense played well and made the plays, while our pitchers did a good job.”