Devils power past 'Clones

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

  
There are three H's taught to young boys when they enter the school system in Unicoi County -- hitting, hustling, and homers. On Monday afternoon on the Devil Diamond, all three practices were put to use against the visiting Elizabethton Cyclones.
   Elizabethton showed some grit in staying with the conference front-running team in Unicoi County for four innings, but the long hours off batting practice paid off in a big way for the Blue Devils as they scored three in the fifth and six in the sixth to lay waste to the Cyclones, 17-7.
   "Not having two of our starters in the lineup really hurts us," stated Cyclone head coach Steve McKinney. "I don't think these kids realize the opportunities they have to beat some good teams only to let them slip away."
   Early on, it looked like UC was going to put the proverbial early nail in the coffin as they scored three runs in the bottom of the first after holding EHS to a three up and three down frame.
   Darrell Roop and Mike Manuel led off with singles, with Roop being driven in on a ground out by Nick Garland. Catcher Justin Benard stepped up and planted a Joseph Vines offering in the front yard of a neighboring home some 340 feet away for a 3-0 Unicoi lead.
   Elizabethton show some spunk early as Jordan Bray led off with a single and Daniel Range was safe as the right fielder for UC dropped a fly ball off the bat of Range. Michael Porter then ripped a drive that took a bad hop into the first baseman's chest for a infield hit to load the platter for Travis "Snowman" Bowers.
   The Snowman plastered a Roop offering over the left field fence that sent a chill through the air as he circled the bases for a grand slam and more importantly a 4-3 Cyclone lead.
   If anything, the Devils were determined to make the Snowman's dinger be nothing more than a puddle as they responded in a hot way in their portion of the second.
   Unicoi County used two hits, two errors, and a hit batsman to record four runs in the frame to retake the lead 7-4 after two complete.
   "We realize we have the target on our backs," stated Blue Devil leader Chris Bogart. "There was a unique lineup on the field today due to our injuries and we prepared these kids yesterday with them showing up today ready for the challenge."
   Elizabethton managed to edge ever closer in the third after Justin Williams roped a single to get things going. Range reached after being pinged by a pitch and Porter picked the runners up with a single.
   The Blue Devils once again shook their pointy fingers at the Cyclones as they scored one more in their portion of the third. The run came courtesy of a dinger off the bat of Andrew Inman as the Blue Devils now managed a 8-6 advantage.
   Roop gained a little strength in the fourth as the senior fireballer set two of the three Cyclones he faced down on strikeouts.
   Vines had a thing or two to prove to Roop as he matched the UC hurler in the bottom of the fourth as he also whiffed two of the three batters he faced in the frame.
   'Betsy tallied their last run of the game in the fifth as Williams reached courtesy of an error on the UC second baseman and was advanced to second as Bray picked up his second hit of the contest.
   After a Range fielder's choice forced Adam Greenlee running for Bray, Porter notched another RBI with his third hit of the game. Unfortunately for the Cyclone faithful, this was the last offense they would see as Roop stepped up down the stretch.
   Unicoi County added three more runs against Vines in the fifth, bringing to a close the junior hurler's day. Wes "Bus" Greer worked one out in the inning to close the door on the Blue Devils in the frame.
   EHS decided to go with freshman Mitchell Blevins in the sixth and the Blue Devils were like a pack of ravaging wolfs as they reached the young Cyclone for five runs, including a Grand Slam by UC's Manuel.
   Range spelled Blevins after a single was given up to Garland and loaded the bases with a hit batter and a single before issuing a bases loaded walk to close out the contest by the 10-run rule.
   "I think the biggest problem is we don't know how to go hard," stated McKinney. "If that's my fault because I don't have them prepared then I'll take the blame, but I know we are making the same mistakes now as we did when we were freshman and sophomores."
   Bogart knew the Cyclones weren't going to just lay down.
   "They are in a position where they don't want to be last in the conference and they have really good athletes," stated Bogart. "I knew they had some guys that could swing the bats and they proved it."
   Elizabethton travels to Johnson County for a key conference matchup today at 5 p.m.