Highlanders come from  behind to defeat Unaka

By Wes Holtsclaw

   With a five-run lead in the third inning, the Unaka Rangers were in the right position to take a hold of a victory in Roan Mountain.
   However, two solid frames of hits and defense allowed the Cloudland Highlanders to bounce back with an 8-7 non-conference victory at Highlander Field Monday afternoon.
   "They started putting the bats on it and made plays in the field," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "That's baseball. We came up here with a plan in mind, and got a lot of kids in the game. That's what we wanted to do."
   Unaka saw action from Daniel McInturff, Brent Huskins and Chad Lewis on the mound, but Cloudland got just enough out of Cole Gouge, who took the victory with a complete outing.
   "Cole stepped it up," said Turbyfill. "We challenged him and it's the first game he's pitched this year. We were in some tough situations, but we battled from five down and never gave up.
   Unaka opened the contest with a three-run first inning after doubles from Chad Lewis and Rusty Chambers. Chambers scored Lewis and Ryan Bowers with his shot before earning his run on a Randy Swearingen sacrificed fly.
   The Rangers scored again in the second and third innings, after holding Cloudland defensively, with RBI singles from Chris Arnold and Brent Huskins to take a 5-0 lead.
   McInturff threw some good pitches but began to wear down in the third as two walks set up a two-run double from Gouge. Mark Barnett followed up with an RBI single to pull Cloudland within two.
   Unaka struck back with an RBI single and stolen run from Chad Lewis, but the 'Landers weren't finished.
   Cloudland got a string of RBI hits off of Huskins as Dakota Benfield, Mark Byrd and Gouge smacked four runs in to tie the contest for Cloudland.
   After a defensive stall, the 'Landers got a double from Mark Barnett and a follow-up from Dale Baker to take the one-run lead. The Rangers put Chad Lewis on the mound and he managed to shut the blue and gold down throughout the remainder of the game.
   Unaka got around the bases in the sixth after a Lewis hit and Chambers walk, but easy defensive outs plagued the Rangers through the final frame, where a strikeout gave Cloudland its first win of the season.
   "It was McInturff's first game back and we wanted to get him some innings in," Ensor said. "Huskins came in and threw some pitches and Chad threw strikes."
   "We'll go from here and you've got to take non-conference games like this and find out who can do what. We'll go back to work and know what to do in these situations."
   Unaka's first four batters on the lineup recorded all eight of their hits in the outing. Bowers and Chambers both went two of four with two runs, while Chad Lewis had a three of four day.
   Dale Baker and Mark Barnett went two of three for the 'Landers, while Gouge went one of four with two runs and four ribbies.
   "We had some situations that we didn't capitalize," said Chad Lewis, who struck out the side in the final inning. "As we go along, we will make mistakes. We'll learn from it."
   "I started getting sore towards the end," Gouge said. "I wanted to get the win and get the complete game. It feels great."
   "We've had trouble leaving people stranded and the whole team hit decent. It was a good job by everybody."
   Unaka 11
   Cloudland 0
   The two teams also hooked up on Friday, with the Rangers riding Randy Swearingen's one-hitter to register a convincing win.
   Swearingen (1-0) struck out an astounding 15 batters, walked none and got ample offensive support from Rusty Chambers, who batted 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, and Thomas Guess, who also went 2-for-3, including a double, while scoring twice and driving in a run.
   Willie Maupin went 1-for-3 with a run, and Swearingen aided his own cause with a 1-for-3 effort.
   Josh Steiner's double accounted for the lone Highlander hit.