Rangers stymie Sullivan South in Unicoi event

By Tim Chambers

   There's an old saying that goes, "If you can't play with the big dog then stay on the porch." Wednesday evening at the Blue Devil Classic, all the rocking chairs on the Rangers' front deck were suddenly empty.
   Putting on a miraculous comeback with two outs in the seventh inning, Unaka pulled off a stunning upset of Big Nine foe Sullivan South 10-8 at Baxter Field.
   "I would go to battle with this group of kids any day," said a jubilant Unaka head coach Mike "Acie" Ensor. "These kids never quit. I am extremely proud of my team."
   South jumped on top 2-0 in the first thanks to a hit batsman, walk and two hits from Grady Mogal and Scott Daniels. Unaka had a chance to score in the first inning, but left two runners stranded.
   After shutting down South in the second frame, the Rangers stormed back for five runs in the second to take the lead.
   Brent Huskins started the inning by reaching on an error while Randy Swearingen followed with a single after Travis Pasquale smacked a base knocker to load the bases.
   Unaka tied the game at 2-2 when Tee Blevins roped a screaming double off the fence, scoring courtesy runner Josh Lowe and Swearingen. Cody Collins added another single and RBI to push the lead at 3-2.
   Another base hit from Chad Lewis brought home Blevins for a 4-2 advantage. Rusty Chambers followed suit with another single and RBI for a 5-2 lead.
   South took a 6-5 lead in the third thanks to some shabby defense by the Rangers. Two errors sandwiched in between four hits helped South to its one run margin.
   Unaka tied the score in the third after Blevins reached on an error and Ryan Bowers smacked a double into the left-field corner, plating courtesy runner Aaron Greer from second.
   South grabbed a two-run lead in the fifth on singles from Chris Arnold and Nathan Free along with a two RBI double by Daniels.
   Ryan Bowers relieved Blevins in the sixth and was able to hold the Rebels in check, thanks to two defensive gems by Lewis.
   Unaka, though, appeared to be headed for another close loss in the seventh when Aaron Hudgins struck out the first batter.
   Pasquale cut the lead at one when he sent a line drive over the left-field fence. Singles by Bowers and Daniel McInturff and a walk to Collins loaded the bases with two outs for the little banty, Chad "Rooster" Lewis, who sent a smoking fastball into the right-field corner to clear the bases for a 10-8 margin.
   "We are starting to get it all together as a team," stated Lewis. "Everyone is making key contributions helping us win. Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be by the end of the season."
   South threatened in the seventh after a walk and another error. Ensor decided to bring in Swearingen, who got Daniels to pop up at second, Hunter Fish on a flyout to the mound and struck out Dustin Mohr to end the game.
   "I just came in and threw strikes and tried to help my team," said Swearingen. "The guys played well behind me and this just proves we can play with the big boys."
   Collins, Lewis, Pasquale and Bowers had two hits each for Unaka. Chambers, McInturff, Swearingen and Blevins had one hit each. Chambers and Lewis reached base four times on the day.
   Lewis had four RBIs while Blevins collected two. Chambers, Collins, Bowers and Pasquale had one each.
   "This is a huge win for our baseball program," added Ensor. "We got Morristown West, Greeneville and Daniel Boone in the next three days.
   "It doesn't get any easier but I believe that it will help us better by playing against these quality programs.