Last inning helps Rockwood slide past Unaka

By Tim Chambers

   It was billed as the battle between the two top public schools at last year's state tournament and for six innings the game was just that. The Rangers and the Tigers engaged in a classic for six innings before a large crowd at City Park in frigid temperatures.
   Leading 6-5, Rockwood used three bunt singles, a walk and hit batsman to account for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to knock off Unaka 11-5 on Friday night.
   "Our inability to get the sacrifice bunt down cost us in this game," said Unaka head coach Mike "Acie" Ensor. "We had two chances to take the lead with men on and failed to move the runner."
   "For six innings we played well against one of the top programs in the state."
   Unaka jumped on top in the first thanks to a double in the gap from Chad Lewis to plate Blevins, who had reached on a fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead.
   Rusty Chambers roped a triple off the right centerfield wall to plate Lewis for a 2-0 advantage. Randy Swearingen's single brought home Chambers for a 3-0 advantage.
   Rockwood wasted no time regaining the lead touching Swearingen for four runs in the first. Singles from
   Andy Willis, E.T. McCreary, Robert Gilmore, and Chris Beeson aided by two errors and a walk helped Rockwood to a 4-3 lead.
   Swearingen left the game after the first with back problems as Blevins relieved and pitched masterfully for five innings.
   The Tigers extended the lead at 6-3 in the second as Wills singled, followed by McCreary,s double and Gilmore's triple to the wall.
   Unaka closed the gap at 6-5 when Lewis got pegged and Chambers walked. Travis Pasquale lined a single to left scoring Lewis while Chambers would race home on an error.
   Meanwhile the game would stay that way until the sixth when Rockwood used their version of small ball to bust open a well-played game for the win.
   Chambers led the hitting at 2 for 3 while Collins added a 2 for 4 day. Lewis, Pasquale, Swearingen and Daniel McInturff accounted for the other Unaka hits.
   "Unaka has a very good baseball team," stated Rockwood head coach David Lane. "They hit the ball well and have solid pitching and defense."
   "We've been playing since 1999 and I respect their program and coach. It's a game that each team looks forward to every year."
   Added Ensor: "Coach Lane has one of the elite programs across the state. You get better by playing better teams."
   "If the weather will cooperate and we can get these guys some practice, we can be a good team."
   After the game both teams were treated to pizza, drinks and desserts by the Rockwood parents and boosters.