Fierce battle sees Devils clip Unaka

By Tim Chambers

   It was a beautiful day to play baseball Saturday afternoon at Claude Holsclaw Field as the Unaka Rangers and Unicoi County Blue Devils hooked up in a classic affair.
   After 24 hits and some outstanding defensive play, the Devils knocked off Unaka 11-8 before a big crowd atop Ranger Hill.
   "I am much happier with today's effort than the last two games, even though it was a loss," said head coach Mike Ensor. "We played error free and hit the ball hard all afternoon."
   Unicoi touched Unaka starter Daniel McInturff for two in the first as Ryan Corn walked, and later scored on a double by Drew Anders. Anders crossed the plate after a Case Whitson single.
   Unaka tied the score in the bottom half. Cody Collins was hit by a pitch to start the game, then Chad Lewis who walked.
   Rusty Chambers stroked a single over to left, followed by another from Randy Swearingen to tie the score. Anders was able to escape further damage leaving runners at second and third.
   Unicoi answered again in the second as Ben Peterson doubled and scored on a two-bagger by Corn. Another Blue Devil run crossed in the third thanks to two doubles by Tim Peterson and John Broyles.
   Unaka took a 5-4 lead in the fourth as Swearingen and Pasquale doubled to open the inning, accounting for one run. After a walk to Ryan Bowers, Tyler McCann lined a single to right, plating two more to give Unaka the lead.
   Unicoi rallied for three in the fifth, thanks to two home runs off the bats of Scott Galloway and Chase Whitson, retaking the lead for the Blue Devils at 7-5.
   A walk to Swearingen, followed by three singles from Pasquale, Bowers and McCann, edged Unaka closer at 7-6. The Devils played long ball in the sixth as Tim Peterson connected for a homer to give Unicoi a 9-6 advantage.
   Unaka answered with two run in the sixth as Lewis led off with a single and Chambers walked. A double by Swearingen scored Lewis, followed by a Brent Huskins single that brought home Chambers.
   From there, Chase Wisecarver came on in relief of Corn was able to get the next two batters with pop-ups to the catcher, preventing the Rangers from tying or taking the lead. The Blue Devils tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh.
   After a walk to Steven Thomas, Dustin Tolley launched a home run over the center-field wall for an 11-8 Devil lead.
   The game ended when Wisecarver snared a hard smash off the bat of Chambers to end a tight-fisted affair.
   Swearingen banged out three hits to lead the Rangers while McCann and Pasquale had two on the day.
   Unicoi Coach Chris Bogart was pleased with the win, and had good things to say about the Unaka squad.
   "It was a good win for our team over a good program," said Bogart. "We hit the ball well the entire day."
   "Unaka has a very good team. They are very sound on defense and hit the ball hard. Coach Ensor does a great job and this is a beautiful field they have. I wouldn't want to play those guys come the end of April."
   "We'll bounce back," added Ensor. "It's a matter of getting the ones that come in late some batting practice. These boys are competitors. They will work hard to get better."