Rangers corral Longhorns

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   When two relatively equal teams take to the diamond, the winning formula could consist of many variables, one of which is momentum. The Johnson County Longhorns found this out the hard way against the Unaka Rangers Thursday evening as they fell 11-6 in non-conference play.
   The Rangers took firm control of the contest with a solid offensive outing, collecting double figures in runs and hits en route to the victory.
   Unaka head coach A.C. Ensor was pleased with the performance of his team as the Rangers moved to 17-10 on the season, "We came out and played pretty solid today," Ensor said. "We came in against a pretty good 2A team and played well."
   Unaka seized the early lead in the home half of the first inning, after a leadoff single by Thomas Guess. A triple by Rusty Chambers drove him home, Chambers would later score on a passed ball, and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead to the second.
   Johnson County would strike back in the top of the second inning, as singles by J.W. Westphal and Adam Leonard and a double by Michael Davis converted into two runs for the Longhorns.
   Unaka would retake the lead in the bottom of the second, as a single by pitcher Daniel McInturff brought home a pair of baserunners. McInturff would later score on a double steal to take a three run lead.
   Controversy would enter the picture in the top half of the third. McInturff surrendered a walk to Joe Atwood while Michael Reid reached on an error. With runners on first and second a ground ball presented a double play opportunity.
   A resulting questionable call at second base, left the Longhorns with two outs and runners on the corners. Westphal would then single to right field to provoke further conflict.
   Randy Swaringen would come up firing for third base, and another controversial call at third base was enough to pry Longhorn coach Pete Pevusek from his perch.
   The resulting ejection left Eric Crabtree at the helm for the remainder of the contest, "Momentum is a big thing," Crabtree said. "In two consecutive plays the momentum swung their way."
   The Rangers plated three more runs in the third inning to insure a victory for Unaka, as the bats were momentarily silent for Johnson County.
   The Longhorns would muster one final comeback effort in the top of the sixth. A two run homerun by Matt Peters started off the inning, but back to back outs made a comeback bid look bleak.
   The threat was silenced three hitters later, with a sensational diving catch by Thomas Guess on a bloop to center field.
   With their chance at a rally dashed, the Longhorns could not offer a threat in the seventh, as McInturff craftily changed speeds to finish off the J.C. threat.
   The victory comes on the heals of a 5-3 comeback win against North Green Wednesday. Ensor remained upbeat about his team's improved performance rolling towards the postseason, "We hit the ball well tonight," Ensor said. "Daniel (McInturff) hit his spots well and kept the ball down."
   The upcoming schedule is somewhat lax for the Rangers as most of the season is behind them at this point, "Our schedule is dwindling," Ensor said. "We will get some valuable practice time, and a chance to rest our bullpen.