Jr. 'Dogs, Rangers break even

By Wes Holtsclaw

   With a week of rain out of the way, the Unaka and Hampton junior high baseballers finally got a doubleheader's worth of action at Holsclaw Field.
   In Thursday's pair, the county rivals split victories, with Unaka coming out with a 12-4 first-game victory, and Hampton withstanding a late Ranger comeback in its 18-7 win during the second half of the series.
   Matt Rasnick threw a solid game for the Rangers in game one with his win over Brandon Irick, while D.J. Oliver took the victory for Hampton over Nick Carden.
   "The first game, we threw strikes and made the plays on defense. We didn't miss signs on offense, and the second game was the total opposite," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson.
   "We didn't throw strikes, we didn't make defensive plays and we missed signs on offense," he said. "We've got to show up tomorrow and play two games instead of one."
   Hampton had a solid scoring effort in its second game, with six runs in the second and fifth innings.
   "We hit the ball well in the second game," said Hampton coach C.B. Hardin. "I was tickled to death with the way the boys hit the ball. We still have a lot of work to do. We made a lot of mental errors and fielding errors. We've got a long way to go."
   "That was a little seventh grader that threw the second game and that was the first game he pitched for me," the Bulldog coach said of Oliver. "He done a heck of a job and kept the ball around the plate. That's what you want."
   The Junior 'Dogs took a 4-0 lead to start the second game after five straight hits from Dustin Milhorn, Brooks Price, Brandon Irick, Timmy Campbell and E.J. Newburn.
   Unaka got one closer when Nick Carden walked and scored on a throwing error.
   Hampton broke loose for their first big inning in the second when Price and Irick contributed RBI singles.
   E.J. Newburn came up with the hit of the game when he cleared the left-center fence with a three-run shot. D.J. Puckett also added an RBI single to end the inning with a 10-1 lead.
   Hampton built on it in the fourth with a double from Wesley Keylon and a walk from D.J. Oliver to set up a two-run double from Puckett.
   An opening triple from Matt Rasnick kept the game going for Unaka. Shane Heaton, B.J. Collins and Kelly Rapert added RBI singles to make it 12-4.
   The Bulldogs scored six more runs in the fifth inning led by a two-run single from Puckett and RBI liners from Keylon and Matthew Sams.
   Unaka kept battling in the last stanza with runs from Carden, Rasnick and Hunter Taylor, but it wasn't enough at the end.
   The Rangers continue play at home this evening with a two-stand against Vance, while their next county game features Happy Valley at Holsclaw Field next Thursday.
   Rain and injuries have been a problem for Unaka's squad this year.
   "We've just been decemated by injuries," said Wilson. "We started out with 16 kids and we're down to 11. I've never had a year this bad with injuries."
   The Rangers were supposed to have played 21 games up to this point, but Thursday's games were their ninth and tenth of the season.