Unaka girls conquer Lady Jr. 'Dogs

By Wes Holtsclaw

   The Unaka Junior Lady Rangers struggled early Monday afternoon. But with the strong pitching of Sallee Taylor, the ladies battled back with a strong offensive prowess.
   Trailing 3-0 to the Hampton Junior Lady Bulldogs, Unaka slowly sprung to a lead and quietly toppled their in-county rivals with a strong fourth inning en route to a 10-3 victory at home.
   "We played horrible the first two innings," said Unaka coach Tammy Taylor. "But we came back and played like we have been. We were swinging at bad balls, but running bases to make up for it. Sallee did an outstanding job pitching and the defense did a good job backing her up."
   Taylor caught on fire after the first inning, only allowing one hit and striking out 12 batters on the afternoon.
   Solid hitting from Logan Wagenseller and Kayla Winters gave the Lady Rangers what they needed throughout the course of the game.
   Hampton opened the outing with two consecutive walks to Mikki Oliver and Kayla McGuire before Cassie Johnson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
   Amanda Peters stepped up with a towering two-run single into right field, before Johnson stole a run giving the Lady Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
   Unaka came back with a walk to Wagenseller, who scored on a sacrificed play from Hannah Colbaugh, to cut Hampton's lead at two.
   Strong defense put Unaka on deck again, this time scoring two runs from RBI singles by Winters and Brittany Westberry to tie the contest at three apiece.
   Taylor struck out the side in the third inning for her squad, before an Erica Wilson single set up an RBI hit from Wagenseller to give Unaka a 4-3 lead.
   The Lady Rangers then exploded during the fourth inning as Tessa Lunsford scored from an RBI single from Winters. Westberry walked, setting up an RBI play from Wilson before Wagenseller brought in two runs with a double.
   Wagenseller sprinted across the late on an error, while Emily Asher singled and scored from a Danielle Buck RBI single, giving Unaka a 10-3 lead.
   Hampton couldn't battle back, falling prey to another solid round of defense in its loss.
   Wagenseller, Winters and Colbaugh all added two hits apiece for Unaka, which totaled 11 hits on the afternoon.
   Unaka (17-3) winds out their season on the road with trips to Johnson County and Gate City, Va. Coach Taylor is pleased with her team's season.
   "This was our last home game," she said. "I'm very proud of the girls, they've really worked hard and they back each other up. Our young players have improved and it's been a total team effort all the way."