By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—Harlan All-Star T.J. Bryant hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday night to give his team a 7-6 win over North Laurel in the Boys’ District 4 11-12 Year Old Tournament.
The loss eliminated North Laurel from the tournament.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to end,” North Laurel coach Greg Binder said. “But we didn’t hit the ball when we needed to. That’s been the story of our tournament.”
Heading into the bottom of the sixth, North Laurel held a 6-3 lead. After Michael Hagel singled to open the inning, North pitcher Ben Philpot had reached his pitch limit and was replaced by Alex Binder. Binder got Michael Robinson to look at a called third strike for the first out of the inning.
Then the Harlan bats, which had been mostly silent throughout the first five innings, came to life.
Jared Hawkins blooped a single that dropped into center field. Gabe Price singled to right to load the bases for Troy Barton, who had already homered earlier in the game. Barton drew to county to 3-2 before drawing a walk, forcing in Hagel.
With the infield still drawn in, Gary Henson singled to center to score Hawkins and Price, tying the game at 6-6. Bryant’s single then scored Barton for the game-winner.
“It wasn’t like we were making errors,” Binder said. “They (Harlan) were just hitting the balls where they needed to. They hit the ball when they needed to.”
North Laurel jumped on top 2-0 in the first inning as Binder and Noah Smith both drew walks. On Smith’s walk, the ball got away from the Harlan catcher, and Binder scored all the way from second. A double to right-center by Shepherd plated Smith for the 2-0 lead.
Harlan got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when Barton took a 2-2 pitch and homered to right field.
A three-run second inning pushed North’s lead to 5-1 against Harlan pitcher Gary Henson. Two errors proved costly for Harlan in the inning.
With one out, Dalton Sizemore reached on an error when Henson threw the ball away at first and the ball rolled into right field, allowing Sizemore to make it all the way to third. After Binder drew a walk, Philpot reached on another error which scored Sizemore. Anthony Fanella came in to run for Philpot.
Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Hutton Shepherd. Shepherd singled to left to score Binder and Fanella to make ti 5-1.
Harlan scored a run in the third and fourth innings to cut the lead to 5-3. Barton scored on a Bryant single in the third, and in the fourth, Hagel reached on an error and later scored.
Meanwhile, North left two runners stranded in both the third and fourth innings. For the game, 10 North runners were left on base.
North made it 6-3 in the top of the fifth as Tyler Purvis was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, but was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Sizemore. Another fielder’s choice, this one off Binder, forced Sizemore at second. Philpot drew a walk off pitcher Ben Lewis, who had taken over on the mound with two outs in the fourth inning. A Smith double scored Binder for the 6-3 lead.
Harlan looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the inning with two outs and two runners on, but Hagel was picked off third to end the inning.
Lewis struck out the side in the top of the sixth setting up the dramatic win for Harlan in the bottom of the inning.
“We didn’t get our heads down and didn’t take them lightly,” Binder said. “The kids worked hard the past few weeks, and I’m proud of that. I had a good time coaching them.”
Harlan advanced to face Williamsburg Friday night while Knox County met Hazard-Perry in the winner’s bracket finals.