'Betsy regroups to take tourney final

By Ivan Sanders

   When two teams in a community meet on the diamond, there is always a level of pride involved because of bragging rights for the two schools.
   After jumping on Elizabethton early in the game on Friday, Unaka came looking to do the same in the final game for the two teams in the David Crockett Invitational on Saturday, but this time the early jump belonged to the Cyclones as they turned the tables with a 14-7 win over the Rangers at Warren Miller Field.
   "Playing these games with teams in the community is good for both sides," said Cyclone skipper Steve McKinney. "Mike Ensor is a good coach and his teams will battle you to the end, so this really helps us as we go into the final part of our conference slate against Unicoi County and Johnson County."
   The Cyclones struck often and early against Ranger pitcher Rusty Chambers who was commended for even trying to play as a result of an injury he has battled during the week. EHS responded by plating six runs in the top of the first and not looking back.
   B.J. Miller stroked a single to open the game and was followed by consecutive walks to Justin Williams and Jordan Bray. Daniel Range reached on an error by Ranger shortstop Ben Cole to allow Miller to cross the dish for the first Cyclone run.
   Travis Bowers continued with a hot bat by crushing a double to score Williams and courtesy runner Greenlee. Right fielder Michael Porter also continued with a good stick by delivering a two RBI single, plating Range and Bowers.
   Jeremy Hodge followed suit with a single to plate Porter, but was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double on a nice hustling play. The Cyclones now needed to do something they have been struggling with, playing solid defense.
   Unaka broke the egg on their side of the scoreboard in the bottom of the frame as Aaron Dugger smacked a single to lead off the Ranger order. Dugger took second and advanced on a flyout to center field by Jeremy McCann.
   Chambers then drove one deep to center that was corralled by Hodge, but was deep enough to score Dugger making the score 6-1 at the end of the first inning.
   A Justin Williams triple was the only thing the Cyclones could muster in the top of the second as the Rangers turned to Daniel McInturff in relief of the ailing Chambers. McInturff, who had gone five innings against Greeneville earlier in the tourney, showed no signs of being tired as he quickly set the Cyclones down.
   Unaka made the hairs stand on end for the Cyclone faithful in the bottom of the frame as the Rangers crept closer to overtaking the Cyclones lead. Chad "Rooster" Lewis reached on a single and advanced all the way to third on a ball thrown over the head of Joseph Taylor by pitcher Wes Greer on what should have been an easy out on the Rangers Ryan Bowers.
   Left fielder David Perry drilled a pitch for a base clearing double allowing the Rangers within 6-3. The Rangers weren't through as Dugger stroked a single to score Perry. McCann, who had an excellent tournament, knocked a single and swiped second to place runners at second and third. Greer then settled down to retire Randy Swearingen who took Chambers batting spot in the second.
   Each defense had a nice third inning as neither team was able to add to their score. After three complete the score stood in the Cyclones favor, but only slightly with a 6-4 advantage.
   The Cyclones padded their lead in the top of the fourth. Nat Treadway reached on an infield single and took second on a throwing error by McInturff. Treadway, who is sly as a fox, took third on a napping Ranger battery to give himself a chance to score on a sac fly.
   It wasn't needed as "Hitman" Williams smacked another solid single to plate Treadway. Bray helped his battery mate Greer by nailing a double to right center scoring Williams with the second run of the frame.
   "I've been working really hard in the batting cage," stated Williams of his hitting array of late. "I just want to get in there and hit the baseball."
   Bray was erased by a 2-5-6-5 tag out trying to go to third on a throw to the plate. Range and Bowers collected back-to-back singles before Porter went down on a strikeout to end the frame.
   Greer's teammates stepped up defensively in the bottom half to keep the Rangers from closing the gap any further. McInturff and his troops responded in like fashion by allowing the bases to load for EHS before slamming the door in the Cyclones face without any runs scored in the top portion of the fifth.
   The Rangers tacked another solo run on the board in the bottom of the fifth as Swearingen reached on a single. Cole followed with a single to put runners at first and second. Terry Tabor hit into a 6-3 double play that erased Cole, but took the breath from the Cyclone faithful as Miller went down hard on the turn.
   Miller went to the Johnson City Med Center with last word being received that he was going to be O.K. which was good news for the Cyclones.
   "Rooster" Lewis pounded another single that plated Swearingen, cutting the lead to 8-5 in favor of EHS.
   Elizabethton needed some insurance and got it in a huge way in the top of the sixth as Bowers singled, Porter reached on an error by Cole, and Taylor drew a walk to juice the base path.
   Hodge carved two more RBI's on his bat with a single that allowed Bowers and Porter to score. Greenlee, who replaced the injured Miller, was hit by McInturff that closed out the south paw's day for Unaka.
   Cole relieved McInturff but lasted as long as a snowcone on a 100 degree August day, facing only two batters and allowing three more runs to cross the plate with Williams once again spanking the ball for two more RBI's. Bray picked up his second hit of the game for another RBI and a Cyclone lead of 14-5 after five and one-half innings of play.
   Unaka added solo runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh, but couldn't whittle anymore off the lead as the Cyclones prevailed for a split in their two games for the tournament.
   Wes Greer had probably his best outing of the year as the junior went six strong innings giving up six runs on 10 Ranger hits with a good job of relief by Joseph Vines in the seventh who struck out the side for the three outs in the frame.
   "Bus did a good job for us on the mound today," said McKinney of Greer's performance. "He really needed a good outing like that."
   Even though the Rangers were shelled for 16 hits by the Cyclones, Unaka's Ensor was overall pleased with his pitcher's efforts.
   "I am pleased with what these young men have done pitching wise in the tournament," said Ensor. "I shouldn't have started Rusty with him being hurt, but he is a gamer and wanted to give it a shot."
   The Cyclones needed this win especially as they head into the final stretch of the regular season.
   "This was a big win for the kids because they have been wanting one for a long time," stated McKinney. " I was pleased with how the kids hit from top to bottom and their overall performance today."