Jr. Bucs drop Highlanders

By Wes Holtsclaw

   The University High Junior Bucs entered Thursday's contest against the Cloudland Highlanders just one game out of the conference picture.
   In a rain-covered outing at Moony Field, the Junior Bucs (6-14, 3-1) successfully battled forward to their Tuesday meeting with Unaka, capitalizing on eight errors with a 10-1 Watauga Valley win over the 'Landers (5-8, 1-3).
   Both pitchers, Drew Harrell and Mark Byrd, tossed 10 strikeouts apiece. However, defensive mistakes hurt the 'Landers most in the outing.
   "Mark pitched good enough to keep us in the game," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill. "Little mistakes are killing us out there. We've got to work on staying in front of the ball."
   University High capitalized on Cloudland, only giving up four hits with stellar pitching and defense.
   "This was one of the better games we've played," said Junior Buc coach Joe Borden. "We didn't make mistakes and we put the ball in play. We've been playing well at times and today we took control of the game early and kept it intact."
   Harrell opened with a single for University High in the first inning, scoring on an error. Daniel Smith struck out, but reached on an error, scoring on a Toby Hoyle fielder's choice to give the Junior Bucs a 2-0 lead.
   Josh Johnson had Cloudland's first hit of the game in the third inning after a walk to David Holden. The 'Landers couldn't take care of things offensively.
   The Junior Bucs scored again in the fourth inning after Tyler Blevins reached on an error, scoring from a Josh Fields shot.
   The squad kept it up in the fifth inning, as Stoots scored on a wild throw and Ryan Collins drove Garrison Burton across the plate. University High led 5-0 until the sixth inning when Cloudland took initiative.
   David Holden opened with a single to right-field and made his way around the bases for Byrd, who sent a rippling shot through the infield to hand the 'Landers their lone run of the contest.
   The run seemed to boost the Bucs. Daniel Smith and John Sams singled with a Josh Fields walk to load the bases. Hoyle then stepped up with a two-run single before Sams took a run from a wild throw.
   Ryan Collins sent an errored shot to the Cloudland shortstop, scoring Hoyle. He came across himself from another errored throw to end the game at 10-1 in the drizzling conditions.
   "We're not hitting the ball well at this point against fast pitchers," Turbyfill said. "We've had trouble against them and UH has a good team. We've got to make plays."
   It was the second conference victory for Harrell on the mound. The senior leader has anchored the Junior Bucs this season and he felt like it was a good showing for his squad.
   "It feels good to get a conference win," Harrell said. "It's good to keep up with Unaka. Both squads had good players out here and Mark Byrd is solid no matter what. I came out focused and got my confidence up out there. It helps a lot when you've got the guys behind us to make plays."
   The college prospect feels that the team has came around and will show its best stuff in the latter part of the year.
   "The record may not show it, but I think at some things we're better than last year," he said. "The main thing is we've got experience. We've had to move some people, but we're coming around."
   Hoyle led the Junior Bucs with a one of four outing, scoring a run and driving in three RBIs. Ryan Collins added two ribbies on his hit.