Lady Cyclones register close win over UHS

By Kim Richarsdon
STAR Staff

   It's still early, and maybe too early to have expected a beautifully executed game between the Lady Cyclones of Elizabethton and their hosts, Unaka's Lady Rangers.
   Monday's game certainly wasn't a thing of beauty, but the effort and intensity were readily apparent. The Cyclones capitalized on a very sloppy third inning by the Rangers, an inning in which Unaka committed four errors, and headed back down the Creek winners by a 7-5 score.
   Danielle Williams wasn't her spectacular self as she allowed 11 hits, but more surprising, she walked four batters, nearly four times her per-game average.
   "I didn't have my best stuff today," said Williams. "That and the errors. That's not Ranger softball. But to their credit, they hit the ball well -- but that third inning was disastrous."
   Unaka will right the ship and play much better as the season progresses and as the weather allows.
   "That's the big thing," stated Unaka head coach Ronnie Hicks. "We had the errors, but so many of them were of the situational variety."
   Coach Hicks' "situational" reference was another way of saying that the errors were, to borrow tennis vernacular, "unforced" errors.
   "We always discuss all the situations," he continued. "We weren't ready with the ball today. We were throwing either to the wrong base, or not sure where to throw. The dryer, warmer weather will give us more time to go to work on those things.
   "We'll work out the kinks and deal more with those situational miscues as we're able to be out on the diamond more. That's not an excuse, because he (Elizabethton head coach Kenny Hardin) has the same problem; but we know that these things are correctable."
   Coach Hardin was pleased with his team's effort and aggressiveness.
   "We send them up there to hit their way onto the bases," Coach Hardin said. "We were really jumping on the ball and driving it early in the count."
   "But this is what it's all about," Coach Hardin continued, while pointing to several of his players side by side with as many players from the Unaka squad. "They all gave a good effort and wanted to win badly -- there's no doubt about that.  But they're now displaying the good sportsmanship that we like to see after the game is over." 
   "We made too many mistakes," said Unaka second baseman Amber Woods. "We have a lot of respect for them. We knew they would be a better hitting team this year, but we didn't make the fundamental plays. We won't hang our heads -- we'll get back to work and improve."
   Coach Hardin went the first four innings with starting picture Kristie Keys.
   "She was doing all right, after a rough start," said Hardin. "But I just felt that maybe we needed a change of pace, so I put Jessica in. It happened to work out for us."
   Indeed. Jessica Robinson was hitting every corner.
   "I was able to pitch pretty well inside and outside," she said. "Once I got my location it was easier to work the change-up."
   Teammate and shortstop Lana Blevins had a good day at the plate and in the field.
   "Our defense was way better today than it's been the past couple games, that's for sure," Blevins said. "And Jessica was spotting the ball with just excellent location. I think that she threw them off balance in the late innings."
   Unaka outfielder Amy Colbaugh sat out the game until the bottom of the seventh, when she was sent in to pinch hit with one out and one on base. Colbaugh grounded into a fielder's choice but sees better days ahead.
   "It is pressure," she said, referring to her late-inning appearance, "but that's where we have to be prepared to help the team."
   Colbaugh hurt her lower leg while sliding into third base in the Rangers' conference win over North Greene last Friday. 
   "I'll be fine," she said, "but we all wanted to be ready to play, and play well against Elizabethton. They're our friends and neighbors, but we, both teams, want to win this game."
   Meagan Heaton had three hits for the Lady Rangers but shared Colbaugh's sentiments about playing against friends.
   "I play ball with Lana (Blevins) and several of the others," she said. "But I sure don't like having them coming up here and getting the best of us."
   Blevins, who was sitting next to her friend, who also plays catcher for the Rangers, couldn't help but make hay of Heaton's disappointment.
   "Yeah, I'm like, so hurt for her," remarked the jovial Blevins.  
   Robinson concurred with Blevins' elation at beating their friend.
   "They're a pretty good team, but we just had our bats popping today," she said. "It's special playing when you have friends on the other team. You don't want to look bad against them."
   Unaka cannot afford to hang its heads over the loss to the Cyclones, as the Rangers have a game later today at home against perennial power Daniel Boone.
   Likewise, the Cyclones can't celebrate into the wee hours because they have a big conference game this afternoon against the Lady Bulldogs from Hampton High School.