Lady Rangers have too much for JCHS

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Correspondent

   The Unaka Lady Rangers improved to 4-1 for the season with a 12-2 victory over the Lady Longhorns (2-3) on Friday at Hicks Field, where Ryann Musick earned her first victory of the season after striking out 10 and allowing no walks.
   "It just feels good to play," said Unaka head coach Ronnie Hicks. "We just need practice. Our games are our practice right now. We had several base-running mistakes against North Greene, a couple of errors that gave them some unearned runs. We had one ball to get lost in the sun. Other than that, we gave them some good defense. That is what I was looking for."
   The Longhorns' Kayla Lewis hit a double and ran in Amanda Dowell to start the game 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Unaka answered back with a double by Kristi Moffitt that pushed Medora Carrier to third. Jessica Moffitt then bounced one into right field for a double, tied the score 1-1.
   They would earn two more runs to end the first 3-1.
   Both teams defense would keep the score at a stalemate until the top of the fourth when Jessica Moffitt would load up the bases and Julie Roberson would knock a line drive past Longhorn Amanda Dowell at center, to run Carrier and
   Kristi Moffitt home. Jessica would also earn another run to end the inning.
   "It goes back to consistency," Longhorn head coach Dana Smith said. "If we ever get consistency and stay there, we'll be all right. We knew exactly what [Musick] was going to throw. We talked about it. We discussed it, and we didn't make adjustments. If you don't make adjustments, then you're stuck behind. You're behind the count the whole time if you don't make an adjustment. We talked about it every time we came in."
   The tide of the game would shift completely to the Rangers when a bunt-and-steal approach threw the Longhorns for a loop to allow six runs before pitcher Katie Nelson would pick up a bunt from Carrier, and Crystal Watson could stop the inning on first.
   "I really wasn't trying to run the score up on them, but we needed to practice bunting," Hicks said. "I really though we would lay down a couple of bunts, and they would get some outs, and we would go on and get our three outs. But it ended up, I guess, that they were frustrated. They beat our number one rival, University High, 6-5. I was really worried coming in."
   "They have a lot to learn, and they are learning that they can't play good one day and bad the next day," Smith said. "They are doing fine. It's just that we don't have one person that has a bad moment -- it's contagious.
   "Everybody has bad moments all at once. When that happens, there isn't anything you can do except play it out. Once they do something, they have to go to the next play. They can't think about what happened before, and they have to want the ball to come to them no matter what happens."
   "Dana is a good coach," Hicks said. "We have played each other for years. Her players are always classy, well-coached and well-disciplined. She does a great job, and with 10 players, that is a limitation that is hard to overcome when you just have 10. One injury can hurt you bad.
   "I respect her tremendously. You can't control the score sometimes, but we were practicing some things that we needed to practice."
   Great pitching from Danielle Williams and Musick has held the defense of Unaka together as neither pitcher has allowed walks in the past two games.
   "I am pleased," said Hicks. "I just hope that the next game is better than this one. Danni is fast. She can put the ball on the corners, throw a curve and change up. Ryann just throws so many different speeds and two or three different deliveries. You can see the batter doesn't know what is coming next, and that is what makes her effective. She is never going to throw at 65 mph, but she is going to have an arsenal of pitches. That is her gift. They don't walk you."
   Bad weather and the state basketball tournament have had both teams feeling behind schedule. But both coaches feel that their teams are coming together and that the practice time has been sorely missed.
   "I am hoping the more games they get underneath their belts, and the bugs will get out," Smith said. "We have only been on our field four times as far as practice time. What I want is for us to just be consistent with our hitting. We put the bat on the ball tonight. It's just that we didn't have the eyes for it. Our game plan is really simple -- do the little things right. That is always our game plan going in."
   "Overall, they all hit the ball better than we have hit it in the last four or five years," Hicks said. "This is the first really good hitting team I have had. What I want to do is move up to a little tougher defense. Tonight it was a whole team effort. This is the most harmony we have had in the past three years."
   Unaka will host Elizabethton on Monday, Daniel Boone on Tuesday and Cloudland Thursday. Johnson County will be on the road all next week. The Lady 'Horns will be at Sullivan North on Monday, Unicoi on Tuesday and Elizabethton on Thursday.