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Middlesboro downs Bell, 10-0 for 52nd District Title

The Middlesboro Yellow Jackets capped off an undefeated 8-0 district season on Tuesday night by defeating the Bell County Bobcats 10-0 on Log Mountain, winning their second straight 52nd District championship.

Chris Callihan had a great day on the mound in the title game, pitching six innings allowing only two hits with no runs, two walks and 11 strikeouts. Callihan was named MVP of the tournament.

“It feels great to be named MVP,” said Callihan. “I’ve been doing this for four years now, and there’s no way I could do any of it without my team or the coaches. They’ve always got my back on and off the field. I feel like we really deserved to win the district.

“We have been doubted all year, (and) to be able to come out here and prove people wrong means a lot. Going into the region tournament, I feel like we have a shot. We just have to be consistent in our batting and field the ball well, and we can play with anyone. I’m excited to play on LMU’s field. We played on turf at the beach earlier this year, so I feel like we are ready to go.”

“We went 6-0 in district play prior to the start of the tournament,” said Middlesboro coach John Smith. “There was never a doubt in the back of our minds that we were going to come out and handle business in the first two games of postseason play. I can’t say enough about Callihan’s performance in the championship game. Eleven strikeouts and two hits through six innings, he pitched a great game. He had a good tournament.”

After taking down the Harlan County Black Bears in comeback fashion on Monday night, the Bobcats seemed to lack intensity during the championship game.

“We’re proud of making it to the championship game,” said Bell County coach Scott Chaney. “This is the first time we’ve been here in eight or nine years. We were proud just to be here, but I think we got satisfied by just being here. I wish we would have competed more. Beating Harlan County must have taken too much out of us and I guess we were just satisfied with just being there.

“Heading into the regional tournament, we are going to compete. We didn’t do a great job of that in the district championship game, but we are going to be ready for the region. No matter who we play, we just want to compete and whatever happens, happens. There’ll be a lot of nerves for them. None of them have ever been to the regional tournament, (and) some of them have probably never even seen the type of competition in the tournament. We’re going to go out and work hard and see what happens.”

The first half inning for the Bobcats would be indicative of how the game would play out. Middlesboro quickly retired the first three Bell County batters in succession before notching their first run of the game in the bottom half of the first on a Tyshawn Simpson unearned run to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.

After getting back on offense, the Bobcats connected on their only two hits of the game in the top of the second. J.M. Baker delivered a double before D.J. Estes connected on a single. With one out prior to Baker’s at-bat, the Yellow Jackets got out of the inning after forcing a fly-out and a ground out, leaving two Bobcats on base.

Middlesboro began to get their offense going in the bottom of the second inning. Perry scored an unearned run to increase the lead to 2-0. With Riley Gent delivering a single and Hagen Owens connecting on one as well, Stephen Justice was able to step to the box and deliver a two-RBI single, extending the Yellow Jacket lead to 4-0. Simpson padded the Middlesboro lead by driving in two more runs on a single, giving the Yellow Jackets a 6-0 lead heading into the third inning.

Middlesboro was able to extend their lead to 7-0 when, in the fourth inning, Simpson drove in Collier Elkins on a single. The Yellow Jackets added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth as Perry rounded the plate for an unearned run and Justice drove in Gent for another RBI, extending the Middlesboro lead to 9-0.

The Yellow Jackets were able to secure a 10-run victory in the bottom of the sixth inning when Gent connected on an RBI single, driving in Braden Ausmus for the game winning run.

“All season long, no one has really given this team much of a chance,” said Smith. “I think we’ve proven a lot of people wrong and these guys have just found a way to win all year long. Even the games we didn’t win, we stayed in them and competed until the very end. We’ve had great team effort, not only during the district tournament, but throughout the season as well. I’m really proud of the season we’ve had so far. Capping it off with a district championship is a great way to start the post season. Now, we’ve got to get back to work and prepare for the regional tournament.”

Both teams advance to the 13th Region tournament to be played at LMU beginning on Monday. The field will be set as each team finds out who they will be playing on Friday afternoon.

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Middlesboro — 150 121. 10. 9. 1.

Bell County — 000 000. 0. 2. 3.

Callihan and Ausmus; Collett, Zachary (2), Hoskins (5) and Smith. WP — Callihan. LP — Collett.