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Sluggish hitting slows middle school Cougars

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

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In the bottom of the second inning, the Campbell County middle school baseball team found itself in good position.

With no outs on the board, the Cougars had loaded the bases, as they trailed 4-1.

However, a lineout, strikeout, and a groundout to the pitchers sealed the inning, as Campbell County came away without a run.

“That shows you how important executing and getting the ball in play,” Brian Miracle, whom is in his first season as middle school head coach, said. “In order to win ball games, you have to be able to put the ball in play. That’s one of the things we’re struggling with, is just hitting. We’ve talked to them. They’re out in front of everything.”

Again, during the final inning as the Cougars were attempting a rally, they left runners on.

Max Farris and Seth Tackett each made it on, however, three straight strikeouts gave Campbell County the loss, 4-2, at the hands of the Middlesboro Yellowjackets.

The Cougars stranded seven runners in the five-inning game.

“It just goes back to hitting the ball,” Miracle said. “If you don’t hit the ball with runners in scoring position or runners on base, you’re not going to win…you have to be able to execute.”

One that was able to execute was Farris.

The eighth grader played his first game behind the plate for Campbell County, giving them a much-needed threat.

“We’ve been kind of bipolar behind the plate this year,” Miracle said. “This was Max’s first game behind the plate. If he lives up to his brother (Bo), not putting him in a shadow, but I think he has a catcher’s gene in him. We’ll be able to mold him into a good catcher.”

However, he didn’t look too shabby on Saturday.

Farris threw two runners out at third base, including a spectacular barehanded snag on a pass ball.

He found the ball just above his head, whizzing the runner out as he was trying to steal.

“I just kind of guessed,” Farris said of the play. “I looked up, and luckily, it was there. I just grabbed it and threw it.”

To Miracle, those are the plays his team’s been missing.

“There was two plays at third where he threw a runner out,” he said. “There was one where the runner was stealing, and then the one on the pass ball that he happened to get him out. Those kind of plays help us get out of innings.”

Farris also threw a runner out at home, as he used the help of his pitcher, Tackett.

Farris found the wild pitch, tossing the ball to a sliding Tackett, who tagged Jason Arnold in a home-plate collision.

“It got me pumping,” Tackett said with a smile after the game. “I was pumped up after that. It felt good to tag that guy out. That was probably the best moment of the game.”

Middlesboro got things started early, as Chase Elliott found a bunt single down the third base line. Josh Keaton sacrificed him to second, before Tyler McClough launched a three-bag shot to left-center. Jay Mike scored McClough on a groundout to third, as the Yellowjackets led 2-0 early.

Tackett found a single to second in the bottom of the first. A groundout by Peyton Ellison put Tackett on second, before a balk moved him to third. Logan Giles singled to short, scoring Tackett from third, making the score 2-1.

Two early walks in the second inning, combined with Elliott’s single to left-center, loaded the bases for Middlesboro. Keaton’s single to left scored Jason Spurlock, before a fielder’s choice by McClough scored Trent Stephany from third. Going into the middle of the second, the Yellowjackets led 4-1.

Campbell County loaded the bases quick in the bottom of the second behind two walks and a single by Dillon Dilbeck. Preston Wilson drew the third walk of the inning, scoring Zach Rutherford from third on the play. Neither team could muster more runs, as it left the final score at 4-2.