Cyclones take homer fest over Unicoi County

By Ivan Sanders

   There were no car horns honking or lights flashing at Unicoi County's baseball diamond on Tuesday evening like what was witnessed almost a year ago when the Blue Devils managed to take the Region 1 baseball title over the Cyclones on the same field.
   The only thing that did happen was the Cyclones cleansing out the bitterness they suffered as a result of the loss to Unicoi County, and enjoying the sweet nectar of defeating their nemesis to break out of their hitting doldrums in the process.
   Behind a fine pitching performance by Joseph Vines and a display of Cyclone hitting power, Elizabethton made the triumphant return by outslugging the young but talented Blue Devils by the score of 6-5.
   The Cyclones broke their skid of two consecutive conference losses while pulling into a second place tie with Sullivan Central at identical 6-2 ledgers in the conference with a little over one week left in the regular season.
   "This was a big 'W' on the road against a good ball club that has a lot of tradition," stated Cyclone head coach Steve McKinney. " We hit and ran real well tonight as we finally managed to get our sticks to come through for us while the seniors finally stepped up to lead this team."
   The first inning for both teams went relatively quiet as the minimum number of batters came to the plate for both clubs.
   The highlight of the defensive effort for the Cyclones was a sweet double play turned on a tricky ball that EHS third baseman Travis Bowers snagged and relayed to B.J. Miller on the bag at second who flipped to Kelly Adkins to nip Matt White stretching for the bag at first.
   The Blue Devils must have thought lightning struck in the second as designated hitter Jordan Bray pummeled a Chase Wilson offering over the center field fence in Unicoi County's shoebox sized field for a 1-0 Cyclone edge. Adam Greenlee followed Bray's dinger with a single and advanced to second on an infield single by Mitchell Blevins.
   Adkins pushed Greenlee home on a throwing error by the Blue Devil shortstop trying to nab Adkins at first to give EHS a 2-0 lead. Blevins then touched the dish as Nathan Bishop hit into a fielder's choice that eliminated Adkins but plated the Cyclone run in allowing EHS to secure a 3-0 lead.
   The wheels feel off the Cyclone wagon in the bottom of the inning. EHS allowed the Blue Devils to climb back in the contest as Unicoi sliced into the 3-0 ledger, adding two runs of their own to pull within 3-2 thanks in part to two errors by the sure handed Cyclone outfield.
   UC came back to even the score in the next inning with back-to-back singles from Drew Anders and Matt White and a perfectly executed squeeze play by shortstop Scott Galloway.
   Meanwhile, Wilson rediscovered a secret weapon from the mound and kept the Cyclones handcuffed over the next three innings while his teammates were actually working on giving him the first and only edge they were going to see.
   After a base on balls to Aaron Fender, Tim Peterson cranked a double that allowed Fender to score the go-ahead run.
   Vines then seemed to get into a little rhythm of his own as he managed to get out of another jam by striking out Wilson to leave Unicoi Blue Devils stranded on the bags with some insurance runs.
   "It wasn't my best performance, but it was good enough to win," said Vines after the emotional contest. "It was a big contest and I just set my mind to come out here and beat this team no matter what it took."
   Elizabethton regrouped in the top of the sixth to tie and retake the lead on the heels of two consecutive homers off the bats of Travis Bowers and Miller.
   After Nat Treadway reached on an infield hit made possible by outstanding hustle and a head first slide to the first base bag, Miller gave the Cyclones a lead they were not giving back on a two-run homer to make the score 5-4.
   Travis Bowers then planted his second round-tripper of the season on a grassy bank across the road from the ballpark for a 6-4 EHS edge that proved to be the game winner.
   In the bottom of the frame, Peterson followed up his solid double in the fourth by taking one of Vine's offerings and driving it out of the park's confines to make it 6-5 going into the last inning of baseball.
   After Ben Peterson managed to handle the Cyclones in the top of the seventh, Wes 'The Bus' Greer gave the Blue Devils a free ride to the locker room after retiring the top of the lineup with some excellent support from Adam Greenlee, who made two fantastic snags in deep right-center to set the stage for Galloway to tap one back to the mound for an easy out and a huge conference win for the Cyclones.
   "We battled tougher tonight than we did last night against Happy Valley," stated Blue Devil coach Chris Bogart. "If we could have eliminated several of the mental mistakes we made tonight and got a hit here and there, we could have won this ball game."
   EHS must now turn their sights to Sullivan North as they travel to Kingsport for a double header beginning at 5 PM today for all intents and purposes of re-taking the conference lead.
   "We will send our two best against them in Greer and Zach Stipe and hopefully these kids will respond because all of them know how big these road games are," stated McKinney. "These games are crucial and it will be tough because North has great pitching and a good ball team."
   EHS is now 7-9 overall and 6-2 in the conference. With the win from the mound, Vines now has a rock-solid 4-1 season mark.