Unaka unloads on Cyclones

By Ivan Sanders

   A word of warning to all of Unaka's future baseball opponents: you had better have an ample supply of fire extinguishers because if the Rangers keep swinging the bats like they did against Elizabethton on Saturday, a volunteer fire department may not be able to put out the blaze.
   Using a 10-hit barrage and riding the strong three-hit pitching of Randy Swearingen, the Rangers kept the Cyclones offense reeling in picking up an 11-0 shellacking of Elizabethton in a five-inning affair at Joe O'Brien Field on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
   "Our kids love coming down here to play and we played well by probably hit the ball better today than we have so far this season," said a pleased Unaka head coach Mike Ensor after the game. "Another key was we made the plays in the field to back up an excellent pitching outing for Randy today."
   Unaka made an early statement as they made the best out of five hits, a hit batsman, and a Cyclone error to plate six first inning runs. Rusty Chambers, Brent Huskins, Cody Collins, Chris Arnold and Thomas Guess picked up a base knock each with Chambers collecting two RBIs and the other four batters each recording one RBI each.
   Swearingen then kept the Cyclones in check in the bottom of the frame after allowing Ryan Kennedy a lead off single and relying on the strong arm of Huskins from behind the dish to eliminate Kennedy as he tried to swipe second.
   Nat Treadway walked and advanced on a Travis Bowers ground out before Swearingen closed the door by getting Wes Greer to fly out.
   Chambers started the Rangers attack in the second with his second hit and was forced at second on a Huskins fielder choice. Tyler McCann came in as a courtesy runner for Huskins and proceeded to steal second. Swearingen then reached on a two-base error that allowed McCann to score.
   From there, Ryan Bowers scorched a double to pick up Swearingen and give the Rangers an 8-0 edge heading into the bottom of the inning. Swearingen again cruised in the bottom of the second as the big southpaw used a combination of power pitching and slick curves to set Adam Greenlee, Michael Porter, and Trevor Hyder down in consecutive strikeouts.
   "I just came out and threw the pitches and let my defense back me up," said Swearingen after the game. "I was having good success with my curve ball today."
   Not that Unaka was going to need anymore additional runs, but the Rangers just couldn't help themselves as they added another two-spot to the board in the top of the third. Arnold reached on an error and stole second base.
   A Guess groundout moved Arnold to third where he scored on another Cyclone error off a batted ball by Tee Blevins. Blevins took second on a wild pitch and scored as Chad Lewis scorched a single for an RBI.
   The Cyclones tried to get something going in the bottom of the frame as Jordan Bray singled and was replaced by Jake Berkley as a courtesy runner. Kennedy drew a walk and both runners advanced on a double steal. Swearingen then settled down to get Treadway on a strikeout and enticed Bowers into a mile-high pop fly to throw water on the Cyclones rally.
   Greer replaced Bowers on the hill in the third and worked a one-two-three fourth frame recording strikeouts of Huskins and Swearingen and getting a ground ball out from Bowers to hold the Rangers scoreless for the first frame on the day. Swearingen wasn't too happy about the strikeout and bent his back to whiff the Cyclone batters for all three outs in the bottom of the inning with the Rangers maintaining a 10-0 edge.
   Unaka adding a little insurance in the fifth to make sure the game was going to be completed in five due to the 10 run rule used in high school baseball. Travis Pasquali came in to pinch hit for Guess and smacked a solid single. Guess re-entered and scored as Lewis once again came through with a clutch hit to plate Guess.
   Needing a miracle, all the Cyclones could muster in the bottom of the fifth was a crushing double by Bray. The Ranger defense backed up Swearingen and the Rangers recorded the big 11-0 shutout on the Cyclones home field to give Swearingen two wins on the season from the mound while yielding only four total hits in those games.
   "I don't know what else to do because we hit everyday and we're just not hitting the baseball and really just not playing with any life whatsoever," said a baffled Cyclone head coach Steve McKinney in trying to pinpoint where the offensive woes lie for EHS. "I am going to take the blame for not having them ready to play because we are not doing the things we know we have to do to win one. It's almost like we've never played baseball before."
   Added McKinney: "I am not going to give up on this team and I don't want them to give up on me. Come Monday, we'll be back on the practice field getting ready for a conference game on Tuesday."