Tight-fisted affair sees UH defeat Lady Rangers

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Great games often result when two equal teams bump heads, and when those teams have a history of not liking one another, rivalries ensue.
   The University High Lady Junior Bucs took the latest chapter in Bucs/Ranger softball saga, as they defeated Unaka 2-1 in a key Watauga Valley Conference contest Tuesday evening.
   The game was one of precision, as pitching and defensive excellence kept both teams scoreless for most of the contest.
   However, living by the sword can be dangerous, and the defensive prowess that kept the game scoreless would cost the Rangers the victory late in the contest.
   Unaka skipper Ronnie Hicks attributes the defensive miscues to inexperience.
   "We're starting two juniors, and a bunch of sophomores," Hicks said. "We expect this kind of play, but it hurts to give 'em away."
   Unaka saw no success at the plate for the first three innings as Buccaneer pitcher Cori McVeigh was on fire. McVeigh struck out the first nine Rangers she faced, while the UH offense was trying to break through.
   Meanwhile Ranger hurler Danielle Williams was working hard to record the majority of her outs.
   Unaka would silence a Jr. Buc threat in the bottom of the first with a fine double play on a line drive to right field. The Lady Bucs loaded the bases in the home half of the second, only to come away empty handed.
   The Lady Bucs quietly showcased a strong offensive performance, as they were able to place a runner into scoring position in every inning aside from the first.
   The second time through the lineup saw some offensive sparks for the Rangers, as Amber Woods broke up the McVeigh no-no with a single to center field. Despite the baserunner, Unaka could not capitalize until the fifth inning.
   The University High defense would be the first to falter in a game characterized early by solid glovework. A Kristi Moffitt single put a runner on first until a throwing error by McVeigh put runners on the corners with only one out.
   Just as the damage appeared to be under control, a passed ball allowed Moffitt to score and the Rangers took a 1-0 lead heading to the home half of the fifth.
   A swift response was in order for the Bucs but they received some charity as well. With two outs, a walk to Duff Richardson and a single by Stacey Keller put a runner in scoring position with two outs.
   A subsequent throwing error by Unaka, along with a passed ball, allowed the Bucs to take a slim 2-1 lead, as both pitchers appeared to be slowing just a bit.
   That was not the case, though, as both McVeigh and Williams responded with solid innings in the sixth, and the Rangers' last chance for redemption in the top half of the seventh was met with two strikeouts and a pop fly to end the Unaka threat.
   University High coach Josh Petty was pleased with the effort.
   "When you play a good team like Unaka, mistakes can come back to beat you," Petty said. "We had a good pitching performance from Cori, and when they hit the ball our defense was there to back her up."
   After moving past the stinging loss, Hicks hopes his team learned from the experience.
   "I think this game helped us," Hicks said. "These kids learned a lot today. As long as we learned something then maybe it was worth the loss."