Clay Carroll couldn’t have scripted his first win as the Bell County baseball coach any better.
The Bobcats scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a 6-5 victory over Middlesboro Monday night.
“For a first win, I couldn’t have hand-picked a better one, especially waiting two years to get it,” Carroll said. “It’s like I told them when I took this job: You set your standard by what they do over in Middlesboro. They’ve got a very good ballclub, they’re always well-coached and they’re always going to do the right things. When you can compete with them you feel like you can compete with anybody. That’s what we’re trying to instill in these kids.”
Freshman Daniel Thomas lined a base hit to right field with the bases loaded to bring in eighth-grader Jackson Walters with the winning run.
“I blame a lot of that on multi-sports. Daniel’s been in a lot of situations playing football and basketball and he’s hard-nosed and goes 110-percent at everything he‘s ever played. Somebody with heart like that, you can’t measure that heart,” Carroll added.
Thomas started the seventh inning rally by beating out an infield single. Cole Hoskins walked and Hayden Clark sent a fly ball to center that fell in to load the bases. Alex Mays followed with an RBI single to left and, one out later, Walters delivered a two-run single to right that cut the lead to 5-4.
With two out, Ethan Raby and Peyton Mason both drew walks to force in the tying run and set the stage for Thomas’ heroics.
“I’m proud of the boys. Daniel got the big hit and he’s a freshman. The last three batters up in that inning were sophomore, sophomore and freshman and the boy who scored the winning run is an eighth-grader,” Carroll said. “We’re young and building this program right now so it’s exciting to be able to compete.”
The Yellow Jackets took advantage of five walks and a hit batter to score four runs in the first two innings.
Connor Mason singled with one out in the first, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a passed ball. Lane Bayless walked, went to second on a wild pitch then stole third and scored on an error.
In the second inning, Kam Wilson was hit by a pitch and Case Bayless walked. Wilson was thrown out going for third on a double-steal, but Tyler Harris also walked. Bayless scored on Mason’s RBI ground out and Harris scored on an error for a quick 4-0 lead.
The Bobcats got on the board in the bottom of the third when Hoskins doubled with one out. Walks to Clark and Dalton Stepp loaded the bases and Walters was hit by a pitch to force Hoskins in to make it 4-1.
Middlesboro tacked on a run in the fifth as Mason singled and Lane Bayless was hit by a pitch. After a balk moved the runners up, Mason scored on a wild pitch.
Hoskins settled down after those wild first two innings and held the Jackets to five runs, two earned, on six hits over seven innings. He struck out five and hit two batters.
“After about the second inning he started pounding the strike zone. He came out after the fourth and said he found his fastball. Cole’s got a funky arm slot and it’s hard to pick up on. They probably don’t have a kid that throws as slow as he does, but he’s consistent and he’s just a competitor,” said Carroll. “We got lucky on a few plays where they tried to stretch singles into doubles and we made great throws.”
Wilson pitched the first six innings for Middlesboro and gave up just one run on three hits while striking out six and walking four.
The Jackets got a measure of revenge on Tuesday as they downed the Bobcats 19-4
Bell County (1-3) is scheduled to visit Williamsburg on Thursday and Henry Clay on Friday. The resume district play next week as they play at Harlan on Monday and then host the Dragons on Tuesday.
Middlesboro (5-2) is scheduled to visit Cumberland Gap on Friday and host Clay County on Saturday. They play at Harlan County on Monday and host the Bears on Tuesday.