Jr. 'Dogs turn back Unaka

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Hampton Junior Bulldogs finished their last county baseball game with a bang Friday at Holsclaw Field.
   Playing a Unaka Junior Ranger squad, which was lacking some players, the Bulldogs took advantage of an eight-run third inning en route to an 11-2 victory.
   "I'm tickled to death with it," said Hampton coach C.B. Hardin. "We got lucky and hit balls. I think that one inning was the turning point of the game. It was 2-1 and we hit a ton of seeing-eye balls. It was great seeing them go through, but they were close."
   Hampton opened the contest with two walks to Adam Townsend and Josh Irick. D.J. Oliver was caught with his shot, but it was good enough to send Townsend across the plate.
   Unaka fired back in the bottom of the first with a big triple from Dustin Carden. An error on a Jeff Wilson shot tied the game at one apiece.
   Brandon Cole followed up for the Bulldogs with an errored shot, stealing his way around the bases when a wild pitch gave him room to take another run.
   The squad held Unaka off at the bottom of the inning and exploded in the third.
   Irick opened things with a single for Hampton, scoring on an RBI triple from Brandon Price. Josh Cole doubled for the Bulldogs, scoring Price before scoring on a Townsend RBI single.
   Brandon Cole got on with an error and scored on a wild pitch before David Caldwell singled and Wes Keylon walked. Irick drove in Caldwell with a single before an errored shot from Price brought two more across the plate for Hampton.
   When they looked down and out, the Rangers battled back with a Michael Carpenter single. Jeff Wilson drove in Carpenter with a single, pulling Unaka within a 10-2 margin.
   Hampton struck right back in the fifth inning after another Townsend single before Price capped off his day with an one-run hit. The Bulldogs capped the game off with a display of defense, earning an 11-2 victory.
   The contest was Unaka's last of the year, while Hampton continues play at Bluff City on Monday.
   "We only have nine kids here with some missing for proms," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson. "So we've got guys playing where they've never been. It's our last game and I'm proud of their effort and our year."
   Thursday's Games
   The two teams also got together on Thursday, resulting in a two-game split on the Jr. Bulldog diamond.
   Hampton took Game 1 by a 10-9 score before Unaka bounced back for a 17-6 victory.
   In the first contest, the Jr. Rangers led 9-8 going into the final frame.
   With the bases loaded and two outs in their final turn at the plate, the Jr. Bulldog shortstop hammered a pitch to deep center to score the tying and winning runs.
   Michael Carpenter absorbed a tough loss -- errors plagued the Jr. Rangers -- on the hill for Unaka, which got two hits apiece from Nick Papantoniou and Dustin Carden.
   In Game 2, Ranger hurler Andrew Church had control problems in a shaky first inning as the 'Dogs pushed five runs across the plate.
   From then on it was all Rangers. Church settled down and held Hampton at bay the rest of the way. Papantoniou, Carden and Carpenter each banged out two hits in the Unaka hit parade.