Ranger sluggers hold own in Unicoi tourney

By Tim Chambers

STAR STAFF
tchambers@starhq.com

   Unaka went into the Blue Devil Classic looking for respect and hoping to play well. The Rangers were able to accomplish both. After their upset win against Sullivan South 10-8 in the opener, Unaka managed to split the last two games of the tournament, losing to Greeneville 3-1 while knocking off Daniel Boone 9-2 on Saturday.
   Greeneville 3
   Unaka 1
   Unaka jumped on top of Greeneville 1-0 in the first on a single by Cody Collins and an RBI double from Chad Lewis. A walk to Rusty Chambers placed runners at second and third with one out.
   Nathan Venerable managed to strike out the next two hitters, which proved to be a key factor in the game. The Ranger bats went silent throughout the contest while Greeneville took advantage of a three-run fifth inning to earn the win.
   "It was frustrating today hitting the ball as hard as we did and only having four hits and one run to show for it," said Chambers.
   "Everything we hit seemed to be right at them.
   "Randy pitched very well and should have won, but you've got to give credit to Greeneville; their pitcher threw well and they made some great plays in the field," added Lewis. "We had them on the ropes several times but couldn't take advantage of key situations."
   Four hits, one of which was a bunt single and an error was all the Green Devils could muster off Unaka southpaw Randy Swearingen, but it proved to be enough for the win.
   Cody Collins, Lewis, Chambers and Tee Blevins had the only hits for Unaka on the day.
   Greeneville won the tournament championship with a 4-0 record.
   Unaka 9
   Boone 2
   Unaka looked to earn their second win of the season over Daniel Boone and the Rangers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with four runs in the first inning. Collins singled to start the game, followed by three consecutive walks to Daniel McInturff, Lewis, and Chambers that brought home Collins for a 1-0 lead.
   A single off the bat of Travis Pasquale was good for a 2-0 lead while Ryan Bowers delivered another base hit for two more runs and a 4-1 Ranger advantage.
   Unaka struck for two runs in the fourth when Blevins doubled and advanced to third on a single by Brent Huskins. A solid shot by Collins brought home two runs, increasing the Ranger margin at 6-2.
   Unaka put the game out of reach in the sixth when McInturff singled and Lewis walked. A double off the bat of Chambers brought home one run while another came home on an error.
   "We really stepped up and played well as a team today," stated McInturff. "We hit the ball well and made several plays in the field. We want to be playing our best baseball come tournament time."
   Ryan Bowers connected for a two-bagger that brought home Lewis for a 9-2 advantage as McInturff managed to hold the Boone bats in check. He allowed nine hits and struck out five while issuing only one walk on the day.
   Collins, McInturff and Bowers had two hits on the day while Lewis, Chambers, Pasquale, Blevins and Huskins had one each. Collins, Chambers and Pasquale had two RBIs each for Unaka.
   "I was proud of our overall effort the entire tournament," stated Unaka head skipper Mike "Acie" Ensor. "Our hitting was good and even in the Greeneville game, we hit the ball very hard but right at somebody.
   "Hopefully we can get two good days of practice in this week before going to play in the tournament at Boone on Wednesday and Friday. We also have a conference make-up game at Cloudland on Thursday, so we have to be ready for that one."