Unicoi  rallies to beat HV

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Correspondent

   ERWIN -- Two Watauga Conference rivals made for a good clash on Thursday as Unicoi County rallied past Happy Valley, 7-4, at Baxter Field.
   "The key to our team is playing good defense, and we had some good throws from the outfield and also plays in the infield," said Unicoi County coach Chris Bogart.
   The matchup paired Unicoi County senior pitcher Nick Garland against Warrior junior Britton Brumitt, which ended with the win going to Garland.
   Garland gave up nine hits with eight strikeouts, while Brumitt was hit on 11 times with six strikeouts.
   The first two innings were a struggle for both teams, as neither team was willing to give an inch to the other side.
   The Blue Devils were unable to capitalize in the top of the first, when they had runners left on first and third base.
   Happy Valley experienced the same problem in the second frame after Forrest Holt struck out, which left runners Tim Whaley and Jordy Harrison on base.
   The Warriors held up on defense once again in the bottom of the second, keeping Unicoi from putting runs upon the board.
   "The first couple of innings were like what we did our first three games of the season, and we talked about it in the fourth and decided to just make some contact with the ball," said Bogart.
   The third frame belonged to the Warriors, as three runs off of six hits were acquired, one of which was a home run.
   It started off with a single from Lamar Rollins, followed by a fielder's choice from Jon Harrison.
   After a bunt from Cody Whitehead, Shawn Baer smacked a homer over the center-field fence to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead.
   "We got a lead and quit hitting, which let them climb back in it, and the key is you can't do that over here on this field," said Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder.
   The Devils gave up three more hits before retiring Dan Back off of a fielder's choice from Jordy Harrison.
   Garland came back strong in the fourth frame by sitting down three batters, all coming on strikeouts.
   The bottom of the fourth was Unicoi's calling, as the Devils started clicking and making contact with the ball.
   With Tim Patterson and Daron Adkins on base, Josh Williams came to the plate to crush a three-run homer that tied the game at three apiece.
   Two more runs were scored when Garland knocked a double that drove in Mike Manuel and Darrell Roop.
   Another score was added after a wild pitch from Brumitt allowed a runner on third base to cross the plate.
   "We have to start playing better defense, and you have to give your pitcher a chance by cutting down on errors," said Hyder.
   The Warriors found themselves trailing for the first time in the game by the score of 6-3 in four innings of play.
   Both teams went three-and-out in the fifth frame, with Warriors trying to regain the momentum, which they had lost.
   "We had them in the hole right where we wanted them, and then let them come back and do the same thing to us grabbing back the momentum," said Hyder.
   Happy Valley closed the deficit to two in the top of the sixth, when Rollins hit a double to drive home Jordy Harrison.
   In the bottom of the frame, Unicoi struck back in its first time at bat.
   Roop demolished a ball that sailed over the center-field fence to put the Devils back up by three.
   The Warriors were able to stop Unicoi in the rest of the inning, but they just had one more frame to make a comeback.
   With the game on the line in the final frame, Happy Valley was unsuccessful in making a rally, as Roop came in to relief pitch, retiring two of the three batters on strikeouts.
   "Darrell is a good pitcher and has done a great job. He's pitched in every game so far coming in late," said Bogart.