Warriors break Devils' spell with 9-2 triumph

By Marvin Birchfield

STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   ERWIN--The Devils' chance to once again deceive was denied on Monday as Happy Valley finally broke the spell of Unicoi County, which dates back to the 1999 season, with a 9-2 victory at Baxter Field.
   "It was a solid team effort," said Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder. "There was solid pitching and good defense, and I thought we were aggressive at the plate."
   The Warriors have had their difficulties in recent years with trying to figure out how to dethrone the Blue Devils, but on Monday it was a different story, for Happy Valley felt little resistance with a dominating performance.
   Freshman pitcher Todd Caldwell was in a zone of his own by retiring 15 batters on strikeouts, as Unicoi had few answers for defending off his curve ball.
   "I don't know what to say about him," Hyder said. "He's only 15 years old, but he threw like he was 19 today, and they can't believe he's a freshman and I can't either."
   The Warriors came out on fire from the start, with Lamar Rollins leading off with a home-run shot over the right-field fence.
   "I was just trying to put it in play to help my team out, so I started the game off good with the bat," said Rollins.
   The Blue Devils were able to answer with a run, which came from a passed ball and bad throw to third base to allow Drew Anders to cross the plate.
   "Happy Valley made us struggle, and the lefty did a super job," said Unicoi coach Chris Bogart. "He's got a lot of guts and showed it today. They went up to battle and put the ball in play, which was something we didn't do, so they made things happen and just beat us."
   Happy Valley kept the momentum rolling in the second frame, when Ryan Garland crushed a two-run homer in center field, which drove-in Jordy Harrison.
   "Todd pitched a great game and he helped us out a great deal, and this win means a lot to us," said Garland.
   After connecting on a double, Cody Whitlock advanced to third base off a wild-pitch, and was given the opportunity to come home after the third-baseman was called for blocking the base.
   The Warriors enjoyed a 4-1 lead after the second frame, and added another run in the fourth with their third home-run shot, which came from Ryan Toney.
   "We went out and played aggressive today," Toney said. "We hit the ball well and played great defense. It was a total team effort and it was against Erwin, so we were ready."
   Three of the Warriors' first four hits sailed out of the park, which stunned the Devils and gave Happy Valley a huge mental edge.
   "We really stroked the baseball, and it is a short field, but a lot of those home runs we just drove out of here," said Hyder.
   Unicoi was threatening to score in the third frame, after two walks, and a single from Anders, loaded the bases with no outs.
   Caldwell rose to the occasion by converting three straight strikeouts to extinguish the Blue Devil fire.
   "This is a big rivalry for us, and we wanted to beat them real bad, so I just went out there and tried to throw my game, and the defense did a good job of backing me up," said Caldwell.
   Unicoi cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth, after a passed ball enabled Matt White to score.
   This was as close as Unicoi came, for the Warriors were on the warpath and scalped the Blue Devils on four more runs.
   A double to center field from Rollins drove in Harrison and Whitlock in the top of the sixth.
   "This means a lot to us seniors," Rollins said. "We have been trying since our freshman year to beat them and we finally did it."
   A ground hit to left field from Harrison brought home Cody Cannon, as he made a great headfirst slide to knock the ball loose from the catcher on the attempt to make the out.
   The last run came off a shot to right field from Garland, which brought home Toney sealing the long-awaited victory for the Warriors.
   "Last time we just really stood and didn't want to swing the bat against them, but the kids wanted this one and they stepped their level of play up," Hyder said. "That's what you have to do against these good programs."