Dragons beat Betsy Lane, Bears rout Williamsburg

Published 5:39 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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Staff Report

The Harlan Green Dragons ran their record to 8-1 and their win streak to five with a 15-5 rout at Betsy Layne on Saturday afternoon.

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Jake Brewer led a 12-hit attack with a double and single for three RBI. Baylor Varner, Chris Rouse and Donovan Montanaro added two singles each. Jared Moore added a double. Eli Freyer, Brody Owens and Luke Luttrell added one single each.

Freyer started on the mound and gave up four runs (two earned) on one hit with five walks and two strikeouts and 2 1/3 innings. Montanaro recorded one out with two walks. Aiden Johnson pitched two hitless innings, giving up one run with four strikeouts and two walks. Varner recorded the final out with a strikeout.

Harlan plays at Hazard on Wednesday.

Green Dragons capture first All ‘A’ title

With seven wins in their first eight games, the Harlan Green Dragons are off to one of the best starts in school history. They took another big step in making the 2024 season special Thursday in McKee with an 8-6 win over Jackson County to give the Dragons what is believed to be their first 13th Region All “A” Classic title.

“It feels really good to get this win. It’s great for our players, great for our program, and great for our school. I’m so happy for these seniors who have bought in. This has been a long time coming for these guys,” Harlan coach Lee Freyer said. “The scary thing is this team is still learning to win. Tonight was definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Dragons scored three runs in the first inning and four in the third to take a 7-2 lead. Jackson County cut the deficit to two with three runs in the fifth inning. The Generals loaded the bases in the sixth inning with one out before Jared Moore worked out of the jam with a strikeout and a ground out to Baylor Varner at shortstop..

Brody Owens started on the mound for Harlan and gave up six runs (one earned) on three hits with two strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. Moore gave up two runs with three strikeouts and one walk in 2 2 /3 innings.

Brody came out and set the tone early. He kept Jackson’s bats off balance all night. He’s a competitor. Can’t say enough about how well he pitched tonight,” Freyer said. “Jared came in and did his job. He pitched with a lead and worked his way through a tough jam in the sixth. So proud of Jared and his leadership. He wanted the baseball at the end of the game. I had all the confidence he would close it out for us. We showed tonight that we have as good of a pitching staff, and as deep of a staff as anyone.”

Varner and Donovan Montanaro led the Dragons on offense with two hits and two runs scored each from the top of the order. Aiden Johnson, Owens and Luke Luttrell added one hit each.

“Offensively, we executed. Tonight we were dangerous when we got guys on base. That’s about buying in. Do your job, get on-get over-get in. We had some big hits in timely situations and manufactured some runs when we had too,” Freyer said. “Defensively we had some errors, but we made some absolute web gem plays too. Some of those errors were nerves. Those are plays we will make as the season goes along.

Luttrell pitches 5 hitless innings as Dragons move to All ‘A’ finals

Five dominant innings on the mound from Luke Lutterell and an opportunistic Harlan offense pushed the Harlan Green Dragons within one victory of a 13th Region All “A” Classic regional title with a 4-0 win Wednesday over visiting Barbourville.

Luttrell, a freshman left-hander, entered the game with a runner on in the third inning to replace starter Jared Moore and overpowered the Tigers with 11 strikeouts while not giving up a hit. Luttrell gave up a run in the sixth inning by walking two and hitting two but worked out of the jam with two strikeouts.

Eli Freyer, Chris Rouse, Moore and Luttrell each had one hit against Barbourville starter Luke Hillard, who struck out nine and walked none in a complete-game effort. Only one of the four Harlan runs were earned as Hillard had to work around five errors.

Moore doubled to lead off the second inning. Courtesy runner Jonah Sharp eventually scored with two outs on a wild pitch.

Rouse singled to lead off the fourth inning and Owens reached on a fielder’s choice. Rouse scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Owens came on Luttrell’s two-out hit.

Donovan Montanaro reached on an error to open the fifth inning, moved to third on Freyer’s bunt and scored on Rouse’s grounder that turned into another error.

Moore pitched two-plus shutout innings, giving up one hit and two walks.

Hillard had the only hit for the Tigers with a single in the first inning.

Freshman tandem allows one earned run as Bears rout Williamsburg

Even before the season started, the Harlan County Black Bears were touted as having one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations in the region in Tristan Cooper and Alex Creech. As the season has progressed, the Bears have discovered they also have a pretty good freshman tandem in Jesse Gilbert and Zayden Casolari.

The duo teamed to allow only one earned run Saturday afternoon as the Bears coasted to a 13-3 win at Williamsburg. Gilbert pitched six innings, giving up seven hits while striking out eight and walking one. Casolari closed by pitching one hitless inning with one strikeout.

All nine HCHS starters had hits, led by Creech with grand slam and a single for five RBI. Tristan Cooper singled three times. Issac Kelly had a double and single while Jonah Swanner and Samuel Henson added two hits each. Will Cassim drove in two runs with a double. Mason Himes, Gunner Burkhart and Aiden Craig added one single each.

Harlan County (6-3) will spend its spring break in Atlanta with four games scheduled.

Swanner sparks Bears with a homer, triple in victory over Lee

When he suffered a devastating knee injury in the season’s opening football game in August, Jonah Swanner’s athletic career was in danger of being over.

He missed the rest of the football season and all of the Black Bears’ run to the state finals in basketball. He never gave up hope of making it back to baseball. He showed Monday he’s back and still has the same power and much the same speed as before as helped lead HCHS to a 3-0 win over visiting Lee, Va.

Swanner showed off his speed in the opening inning when he barely missed a home run but raced all the way to third base with a triple before the scoring the Bears’ first run on Alex Creech’s grounder to short. He left no doubt on his third trip to the plate in the fifth inning when he easily cleared the fence in left for his first homer of the season.

“Tonight watching Swanner round those bases kinda got me a little teary eyed — I won’t lie. Watching first hand on everything he has been through from the injury to the surgery to the therapy, I am just so proud of the young man he is and becoming,” Harlan County coach Scotty Bailey said. “He’s done the right things to get himself back to where he is, I just can’t be more proud of him. He wants to go play college ball, and I think he’s got every tool to do it at a high level, to me he hasn’t lost much of anything being back. Now, once he gets back fully comfortable I think he’ll get everything he wants. People usually don’t make it back from an injury like that and be the same, but he worked his butt off and was back in five months fully released. If it was up to him he wouldn’t be on any restrictions. He’s getting back in the swing of things as far as fielding and bases running.”

Swanner’s work provided more than enough offense for HC pitchers Tristan Cooper and Zayden Casalari. Cooper gave up only one hit over five innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks. Casolari, a freshman, retired all six hitters he faced with one strikeout and no walks.

“Cooper came out and threw great for us. It’s been over a week since he has thrown and the first time we’ve taken the field in four days, so it was just getting out there and getting lose for him at first, but he’s settled in, and I  think he’s the best pitcher in the region,” Bailey said. “His off speed is working good and that helps him a lot. Biggest thing was he threw five innings had only two walks and only threw 70 pitches before coming out. Staying away from walks keeps him low in the pitch count, and that’s what we want. The work he’s put in is showing, I’m proud of him tonight! Zayden always comes in and gives us some good innings. Tonight he came in top of the line up and threw three pitches and got three outs. He located very well. I love the confidence he brings when he takes that mound. I think he threw two innings on 11 pitches, and that’s impressive.”

In addition to Swanner’s two hits, the Bears got singles from Isaac Kelly, Cooper, Gunner Burkhart and Aiden Craig.

Clay Robbins pitched a complete game for Lee with two strikeouts and two walks.

Kelly picked up the second run for the Bears when he walked to lead off the third inning, then moved up on a wild pitch and passed ball before scoring on Cooper’s ground out to short.

Swanner led off the fifth with a blast on the first pitch to push the lead to 3-0.

Casolari needed only three pitches to record three outs in the sixth inning, then threw only nine more in the seventh as he retired all six batters he faced to record a save.