Harlan Stars explode for 8 in the 5th to rally past Knox and into final four

Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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A Harlan All Stars offense held to no runs through three innings and one through four exploded for eight in the fifth inning last Tuesday on the way to a 9-5 win over Knox County in the second-place game of the District 4 East Tournament (ages 9-10), earning a berth in the four-team district finals in two weeks in Corbin.

“We had been hitting the ball pretty well the past couple of games, but I think nerves got to us early. Once we settled down we connected much better,” Harlan coach Anthony Nolan said.

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Harlan’s Weston Nolan and Knox’s Owen Hinkle traded zeroes through three innings, but Nolan was more economical with his pitches and made it through 4 2/3 innings to earn the win even though he tired late. Nolan gave up five runs on 11 hits, including five in a four-run fourth inning that gave Knox a 4-1 lead. He struck out four and walked two.

Maddox Landa allowed only hit as.he recorded the final four outs for a save.

“I thought the control of our pitchers was very big in this,” Nolan said. “Our guys executed against some good hitters. Weston has good control and works hard at it. I needed Maddox to close, and he did a great job. I’m very proud of them. This whole group works hard together and they’ve battled in the heat. I’m excited for Harlan.”

Maddox Helton led an 11-hit Harlan attack with three singles in three at bats. Landa had two singles. Nolan, Cian Garland, Lakin Smith, Deacon Lisenbee, Sawyer Shackleford, Bentley Colinger and Saylor Crow added one single each.

Owen Hinkle gave up one run on three hits in 3 2/3 innings, with five strikeouts and four walks. He reached his pitch limit in the fourth as several Harlan hitters worked the count, especially a 10-pitch at bat by Lisenbee before a ground out to end the second inning.

Jacob Mills gave up eight runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 2 1/3 innings.

Smith. Lisenbee, Shackleford, Bolinger and Crow had consecutive hits to open the decisive fourth inning. After Colt Sullivan drew a walk, Nolan, Helton and Landa followed with consecutive hits before a sacrifice fly by Grant Caldwell closed the scoring for Harlan.

The Harlan defense was also exceptionally good with only two errors and two double plays. Smith started the first double play to get Nolan out of a jam in the second inning as he made a catch in center and followed with a strong throw to nail a Knox base runner trying to score. Second baseman Landen Spurlock ended the game by catching a line drive from Tripp Taylor before throwing to Caldwell at first to double off a runner.

“We were a little sloppy defensively against Leslie County with a big lead, but we’’ve been good other than that. The kids work hard on defense in practice,” Nolan said. “We needed to eliminate errors against a team like Knox that can hit one through 12.”