The Bell County Bobcats picked up a signature win for coach Scott Chaney on Monday as sophomores Austin North and Zach Turner made a first inning run hold up for a 1-0 win over North Laurel.
“Yeah, this is the biggest win we’ve had all year and probably the biggest win these kids have had in the last couple of years,” Chaney said. “I’m really proud of them. Austin pitched a great game, Zach came in and worked the final two innings. All of the kids did their job, made the routine plays and that one run was good enough to win the game.”
To illustrate how far the Bobcats have come this season, they opened with a 9-3 loss at North Laurel and many considered it a victory of sorts that they were able to take the Jags all seven innings.
Monday, Bell scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Evan Brock drew a four-pitch walk and Aaron Jenkins drove the first pitch he saw into the gap for an RBI double.
“Aaron sent that double into the gap and Evan used his speed and scored all the way from first,” Chaney said.
Jenkins would go to third on a Jacob Rose ground out and he nearly scored when a pitch got away from North Laurel catcher Ethan Maxey. But Maxey recovered in time to get ball back to pitcher Austin Thompson for the out at the plate to end the inning.
From there, Thompson allowed just a second inning single to Dylan Cox and a fifth-inning single to Turner. Over his six innings he gave up just the one earned run on three hits while striking out five and walking one.
North started for the Bobcats and allowed four hits over his five innings while striking out three, walking three and hitting a batter to get the win. Over his two innings, Turner allowed one hit while striking out one, walking one and hitting a batter to earn a save.
“Austin and Zach have been pitching all year long and we had a pretty nice rotation going with them and Dylan. Just having Dylan back in the line up gives them a little support and a little confidence,” Chaney added. “Austin stepped up and did his job, I’m very proud of him.”
North worked around a walk to Zack Hurley and hitting Thompson with a pitch in the first. Hurley was thrown out at third on a ground ball and Brock snagged a liner to end the inning.
Maxey doubled with one out in the third and Hurley walked again. But North came back with a strike out and then a fly out to right to escape the jam.
Dylan Messer had a two out single in the fourth, but the Jaguars’ best scoring chances came in the final innings.
In the fifth Cole Lewis singled, but was picked off and tagged out at second when Jackson Lefevers went down to one knee to take a low throw from Turner and make the play. It turned out to be huge as Maxey tripled in the next at bat. North struck out Hurley for out number two, walked Thompson, and then got Logan Mallory to hit a grounder to short. Brock knocked it down and was able to throw on to first to end the inning.
Turner took over to start the sixth with the Bobcats still clinging to that 1-0 lead. Austin Rudder tripled to start the frame. Turner held him there after fielding a comebacker and throwing on to first for the out. Messer then hit a grounder to third where Jacob Rose fielded it and came up throwing home to Jenkins to get Rudder at the plate. Messer stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, but Turner struck out Jake McWhorter to end the inning.
The seventh frame saw the Jags load the bases with two out as Maxey was hit by a pitch, Thompson was intentionally walked and everyone was safe on a fielder’s choice grounder by Mallory. Turner got Rudder to hit a grounder to short and Brock flipped the ball to Lefevers at second to end the game.
Bell County (12-14) will play at Jackson County on Thursday before closing out the regular season at home against Clay County on Friday. The Bobcats are the number three seed for the 52nd District Tournament and will play Harlan County at 8 p.m. on Monday. The tournament is being played at Harlan.
North Laurel (17-11) was scheduled to host Barbourville on Tuesday and will close out the regular season with home games against Harlan County on Thursday and Middlesboro on Friday.
— — —
North Laurel… 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Bell County…… 100 000 x — 1 3 0
Thompson and Maxey; North, Turner (6) and Jenkins. W-North. L-Thompson. Sv.-Turner.