Montanaro’s walkoff blast propels Dragons to thrilling district win over Harlan County

Published 5:10 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By John Henson
Contributing Sports Writer

Brought to you by our partners at Harlan County Sports.

After watching countless scoring opportunities slip past them during the first six innings, the Harlan Green Dragons and senior second baseman Donovan Montanaro didn’t let their last chance get away. Montanaro delivered a one-out, three-run walkoff homer as the Dragons rallied for a 5-4 win last Wednesday over visiting Harlan County.
“I’m proud of these guys. I’m really proud and happy for Donovan to be here for four years. He’s done a good job leading this bunch, and I’m proud of him tonight,” Harlan coach Lee Freyer said.
Harlan County starter Alex Creech had worked out of several jams before finding his rhythm late in the game, retiring five straight before Jake Brewer reached with one out in the seventh on the Bears’ only error of the night. Baylor Varner followed with an infield single to third before Montanaro came through with the game-winning blast over the fence in left.
The Bears took the lead in the top of the seventh as Gunner Burkhart led off with a double and Craig followed with his second bunt hit of the night. One run scored on the Dragons’ sixth error of the night, then Creech singled home an insurance run. HCHS had a chance for more but left the bases loaded.
“We didn’t get a lot of timely hits tonight and left too many in scoring position,” Harlan County coach Scotty Bailey said. “I thought Creech pitched well, and we did a lot of good things behind him. I think we just had one error.”
Varner led the 9-3 Dragons at the plate with a double and two singles. Eli Freyer had two singles. Montanaro had a homer, while Brody Owens, Aiden Johnson, Jared Moore, Luke Luttrell and Brewer added one single each.
Luttrell gave up four runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in 6 1/3 innings. Freyer struck out one and walked one as he recorded the final two outs to claim the victory.
Creech gave up five runs on 11 hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in a complete game effort.
Craig and Creech each had two hits to lead the 7-8 Bears. Gunner Burkhart had a double. Mason Himes added a single.
Harlan County took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as the Dragons made three of their six errors. Will Cassim was safe on a two-out effor, then came around to score when Himes’ hit got past the left fielder. Cooper reached on a fielder’s choice, then Himes came home when throw from Varner got past second base.
“We didn’t execute very well. We’re still missing signs and making mistakes,” Freyer said. “It was a dogfight tonight, and we wanted it bad, but we have to execute better.”
Harlan had a runner on third in the first inning but came up empty, then somehow was unable to score in the second inning despite four hits in the inning.
“I ran us out of one inning. The grass was wet, and I was taking chances out here. They made some plays, and I’m aggressive by nature,” Freyer said. “Cooper threw well the other night, and Creech threw well tonight. We found a way to take BP in the rain yesterday, and we had some guys get some work in and it showed today.”
Freshman left fielder Jesse Gilbert came up with the defensive play of the night when he fielded Brewer’s two-out hit and threw out Johnson at the plate.
“Gibby worked his butt off this summer, and I can’t brag on him enough,” Bailey said. “He did all the right things in the offseason and it’s paying off now. He had a big throw and also a nice catch. Some of our younger guys are having to step up with guys out. It’s next man up. I thought we played a good game, but we left too many in scoring position. We just have to keep working.”
Harlan loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning as Varner doubled, Montanaro walked and Freyer singled. Creech worked out of the jam by getting Chris Rouse to hit into a double play that brought in one run.
Johnson walked in the fourth inning and scored on Luttrell’s single to tie the game at 2-2.
Harlan plays at Lynn Camp on Thursday. Harlan County travels to Perry Central on Thursday.

Email newsletter signup