Crockett nips Unaka, 3-2

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

  
Sometimes the better team isn't the team that walks off the field with the win.
   This was so in the opening game of the David Crockett Invitational as the host Pioneers stole one from Unaka taking the game by a score of 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh after trailing the whole contest at Warren Miller Field.
   "We just wanted to come down here and make ourselves better by playing against AA and AAA teams," said Unaka head coach Mike Ensor. "I believe we have proved that we can play against teams like this and have a chance to win."
   Unaka had a productive top of the first inning. Aaron Dugger led off with a base on balls and proceeded to swipe second. Rusty Chambers smacked a drive that bounced over the center field fence for a ground rule double plating Dugger.
   Pitcher Ben Cole helped himself by lacing a single that scored Chambers from second for a RBI, but Crockett turned a smooth double play to end the threat.
   Cole worked a smooth first inning coaxing the first three batters to hit the ball in the air where the Ranger defense made good on all three attempts to set Crockett down quickly.
   Pioneer pitcher Travis Butler made quick work of Chad Lewis and Ryan Bowers, as he also was able to entice the Ranger hitters into two fly ball outs. Butler ran into a little trouble as he issued consecutive two out walks to Daniel McInturff and Cody Collins to put the Rangers back in business.
   The threat was quenched when Dugger grounded out to the Pioneer shortstop to end the frame.
   "Butler had a nice game for us on the hill," stated Crockett head coach Scott Hagy. "He kept us in the game up until the last and helped himself with a big hit."
   Cole continued to work strong as he once again was able to allow his defense to play solidly behind him. Chad Bennett worked Cole for a base on balls to begin the Pioneer third and advanced by swiping second, but that was all the Pioneers could muster against the Rangers as Unaka maintained it's 2-0 advantage.
   Taylor scored as Ranger left fielder David Perry bobbled a pop fly that looked to be out number three in the inning, giving Crockett new life, and after four complete, the Rangers still clung tightly to a 2-1 lead.
   In the Ranger sixth inning, consecutive singles by Arnold, Lewis, and Bowers with one out loaded the bases for Unaka. The Crockett defense then came to life as Butler was able to entice McInturff into hitting one to Pioneer first baseman Bennett who threw home for the force and with the catcher's throw back to first for the twin killing that ended the threat.
   Unaka was looking for a little insurance in the top of the seventh, but two quick fly outs made their chances look slim. Jeremy McCann then laced a single to left that was followed up by a sharp hit up the middle by Chambers.
   Cole looked to help his cause with a rip down the first base line, but the Pioneer right fielder gunned down McCann trying to score from third to end the frame.
   Travis Costner brightened things for the Pioneers in the bottom of the seventh as he drilled one to right that McInturff couldn't reach. Costner, hustling all the way, looked to turn the sure double into a triple.
   He got a little help as the relay by Chambers sailed over McCann's head at third into dead ball territory allowing Costner to tie the score at 2-2. Butler then ripped a double of his own to put the Pioneers right back in business.
   A sure fly ball out by Dulaney was dropped putting runners at first and second. Ranger catcher Lewis, looking to catch the runner asleep at third, threw the ball into the runner with the ball bouncing away.
   Crockett's Ryan Buchanan, running for Butler, then scampered home with the winning run and an end to a wild affair.
   "We just made a couple of bad decisions," stated Ensor. "We had the out at home and then had men on base and couldn't get the hits we needed."
   Unaka and Greeneville square off on Thursday at 4 p.m. as the Crockett Invitational continues.