Tennessee High outlasts Unaka

By Tim Chambers

   BRISTOL -- For six innings Unaka looked like knights in shining armor on the battlefield. In the seventh the Rangers got knocked off their high horse.
   Playing inspired baseball the entire way, Unaka came within one out of knocking off Big Nine contender Tennessee High, which escaped with a 6-5 win at the Viking Field.
   "I am well pleased with the effort we have given the last three games," said Unaka head coach Mike "Acie" Ensor. "We've been aggressive at the plate and on the bases."
   Tennessee High jumped out to a 3-0 lead when Caleb Tester delivered a two-out single. A key two-out error allowed the Vikings three unearned runs after Josh Ultsman and Brandon Anderson connected for base hits.
   Unaka answered with two in the third after Tyler McCann reached on an error and Daniel McInturff drilled a single to right. Chad Lewis ripped a single to center, which was followed by laser to right from Rusty Chambers to cut the margin to 3-1.
   A sacrifice fly from Brent Huskins was good for an RBI, but Shane Varney was able to get the next batter to ground out.
   Unaka tied the score in the fourth when McCann singled and scored on a fly-ball error by the outfield. Tennessee High managed to retake the lead in the fourth, thanks to back-to-back singles from Nick Howington and Varney.
   A groundout off the bat of Michael Worley gave the Vikings a 4-3 advantage.
   Back came Unaka in the fifth as Chambers led off with line-drive single and a second-base steal on the next pitch. A two-out single from Tee Blevins scored Chambers to tie the game, and Ryan Bowers roped a single to left for another RBI to give Unaka a 5-4 advantage.
   Meanwhile, Blevins was able to keep the Viking hitters off balance with a good variety of pitches, getting out of a big jam in the sixth, leaving the bases loaded.
   Tennessee High brought in ace reliever Zack Morton in the sixth to try and cool off the Ranger bats. Lewis slapped a one-out double off the center-field wall and was moved to third on a groundout. A walk to Huskins put runners on the corner with one out, but Morton was able to get the next batter to fly out ending the Ranger threat.
   Unaka loaded the bases in the seventh frame after Blevins doubled and McCann singled. Cody Collins walked to load the bases, but Morton got McInturff to pop up and Lewis on a deep fly to right that proved to be the turning point of the contest.
   Anderson reached Blevins for a double, his third hit of the day, and advanced to third on a single from Ryan Forbry, who later stole second. After a circus grab on a high line drive by Lewis, Unaka elected to bring in McInturff to close the deal.
   Mackie Chapman slapped the second pitch up the middle for two RBIs, giving the Vikings a hard-fought victory.
   Unaka banged out 13 hits on the day, led by Lewis at 3 for 5. Chambers added a good performance, going 2 for 3 as did McCann, while Blevins chipped in at 2 for 4.
   Collins, McInturff, Pasquale and Ryan Bowers chipped in with a hit each for the Rangers.
   "We did a much better job hitting with two strikes today," added Ensor. "We left too many runners stranded, but overall the effort was outstanding.
   "We've got five tough games next week starting with Tennessee High at home. I think we are finally starting to see the ball much better."