Lady Rangers take fourth place finish in Tiny Day tournament

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   GREENEVILLE -- After qualifying for a spot in the upper bracket of the Tiny Day tournament in Greeneville, the Lady Rangers made a quick exit with a 5-0 loss to Cocke County on Sunday.
   Unaka finished fourth in this weekend's tournament, which matched them up with the top five teams for the post tournament.
   The Rangers were seeded number four going in, where they took on the number five seed Cocke County.
   "I'm really proud, for we had to beat some good teams just to get here," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks. "They beat us 2-1 down here last year, but they had six new players and seven seniors, so he must of had some of his team at the prom or something when we played them last year."
   Unaka hung tough through the first two innings, as senior pitcher Danielle Williams avoided surrendering any hits.
   A nice knock down and throw out by the third-baseman Tara Bishop kept the Fighting Cocks from reaching base in the first frame.
   The Rangers elected to go into the bag of tricks by switching pitchers after the first two frames.
   Ryann Musick replaced Williams at the mound in the bottom of the third, but the change-up didn't quite play out as it did earlier in the week against their conference rivals University High.
   "I didn't expect them to hit the ball as well as they did, and my little switch-a-roo didn't work this time," said Hicks. "Sometimes it will and sometimes it won't, but last time, it worked great against a pretty good ball team, so we thought we might as well try it here in case we had to use it again, but it didn't work this time."
   Musick struggled by giving up back-to-back hits to Olivia Carver and Michelle Ball.
   Two consecutive walks scored the first run of the game with Carver crossing the plate.
   "The first two innings, I thought we were overzealous in hitting the ball, and then we were patient and selected the pitches to come up with some timely hits," said Cocke County coach Larry Williams.
   The Rangers led off the second and third innings with base hits from Julie Roberson and Amber Woods.
   Their last hit of the contest came in the fourth frame, when Brittany Taylor dropped a double inside the left field line.
   Unaka was unable to advance the base runners in each of the three frames, as their offense disappeared in the final two innings.
   It wasn't the same for Cocke County though, as they started teeing off during the fourth frame.
   Again, Musick couldn't find the groove, and after giving up two hits and another run, the Rangers decided to pull her and put Williams back in at the mound.
   "We won't give up in switching the pitchers though, for if both of them get hot then they'll be hard to handle," said Hicks. "One of them had a bad day today, and they got the bat on the ball on the other one too, but we just didn't hit the ball."
   Unaka didn't seem to respond after that point, as a bunt from Meranda Seay and error on a throw from third base resulted in Shannon Samples coming home for a score.
   Two more hits produced a couple of runs, when Kristen Ullom knocked a hard grounder to shortstop to score Seay, and a double by Lauren Birdsell drove in Olivia Carver.
   The Fighting Cocks captured two more hits on the evening with a total of nine overall, as they seemed to be having a field day against a frustrated Ranger ball club.
   "We've been doing a good job in hitting the ball, and sometimes when you put the bat on the ball in softball, the other team will make a blunder or two," said Williams. "As long as you hit the ball, then that's a big key, and we've been playing well the last seven or eight games."
   Cocke County decided to bring in freshman pitcher Sierra Frisbe during the sixth frame, and after walking the first two hitters, she responded by retiring the next three with the last two coming from strikeouts.
   "The Ullom girl does a good job in pitching, and then after we got two or three runs we felt a little comfortable, so we brought in our freshman at the end to make it a little exciting," said Coach Williams.
   The contest came to an end in the bottom of the sixth after the time limit had expired.
   "There at the end, I had my best sticks coming up and I knew we were just going to hit the ball against their slow pitcher, but I guess he used my psychology only just for one inning, and it worked on us," said Hicks.
   "I really don't think they gave up and maybe their confidence got shattered a little bit, but I think the change in the pace of pitchers affected us more in the way he did it than in the way I did it."