Unaka tops Volunteer, Boone in WC Classic

By Tim Chambers

   It wasn't the Appalachian Fair last night at Gray, but for Ranger baseball fans it was a most enjoyable evening at Daniel Boone High School.
   Unaka stood tall among the big boys, knocking off Volunteer 6-3 in the first contest, then outlasting the Trailblazers 7-6 in the nightcap.
   Unaka 6
   Volunteer 3
   Unaka started off slow like the kiddy cars, but managed to swing past the Falcons to earn its first win of the tournament.
   After two scoreless innings, the Rangers took a 1-0 advantage thanks to a single off the bat of Brent Huskins, who scored when Cody Collins reached on an error.
   Unaka tacked on three runs in the fourth after Swearingen lined a single to right while Ryan Bowers worked his way for a walk. Another single by Huskins loaded the bases for Collins, who smoked a double to right-center field, clearing the ducks off he pond for a 4-0 advantage.
   "Everyone was writing us off with all the basketball stuff that was going on, but we are starting to play very well as a team," said Collins.
   Unaka answered again in the fifth as Chad Lewis led off with a single and advanced to third on a double by Rusty Chambers.
   A Tee Blevins ground out scored Lewis but Daniel Byingston managed to pitch out of a major jam, leaving Chambers stranded at third.
   Volunteer rallied for three in the sixth, with Brandon Fleming, Byingston, J.C. Frazier and Tyler McConnell collecting singles in the inning.
   Unaka added an insurance run in the seventh when Chambers singled and raced to third on another base hit by Blevins. Pasquale bullet up the middle accounted for a 6-3 advantage.
   After allowing two singles in the seventh, Swearingen closed the deal by getting two strikeouts and a groundout to end the game.
   Collins, Chambers, Pasquale and Huskins had two hits each to lead Unaka while Lewis, Blevins and Swearingen gathered one hit apiece
   Swearingen struck out 10 batters in the win.
   Unaka 7
   Daniel Boone 6
   Unaka came out higher than a double decker Ferris Wheel in the second game by scoring three runs in the first inning en route to the victory. Daniel McInturff started the inning with a walk and moved to third on a single by Chad Lewis.
   Rusty Chambers lined a RBI double to left center, followed by Tee Blevins, whose solid single plated two more runs to hand Unaka a 3-0 lead.
   "We feel like we can play with anybody and we want to prove that to these bigger schools," stated Chambers. "We respect our opponents but a team can only put nine players on the field at a time, so you can't be intimated by the size of the school."
   The Rangers extended the lead to 4-0 when Ryan Bowers reached on an error and advanced to third when Collins reached on a blunder. A single by McIntuff scored Bowers, but Collins was nailed at the plate to end the inning.
   Unaka upped the margin at 5-0 in the third as Lewis led off with a walk and stole second. Chambers followed with a base hit to center, scoring Lewis for another RBI.
   Unaka scored two more in the fourth after Collins doubled to start the inning and McInturff walked. Lewis reached on a fielder's choice as both runners moved up on a wild pitch. A rocket to left by Chambers tallied two insurance runs for a 7-0 advantage.
   Boone touched Unaka for solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings before the Rangers decided to go on a roller-coaster ride.
   After running the pitch count to over 100, Coach Mike "Acie" Ensor summoned Chad Lewis to close the deal for Blevins, but the Trailblazers refused to go away without a fight. After a walk to Mike Dillow, Boone added singles from Adam Cox, Brian Crawford and a double from Cory Lamson to close the margin at 7-6.
   Ensor then made the call to junior lefty Kirk Kemp, who had been used primarily in junior varsity contests, but Kemp was up to the task, getting Erin Hancock to strike out and Brett Plaucha to fly out at second.
   The roller-coaster ride ended when Cory Lamson lined a single to left and Drew Woodruff attempted to score from second. As Woodruff rounded third, Collins gunned a strike to Huskins, who had the plate blocked like a giant bumper car to preserve the win for Unaka.
   Blevins picked up the win, allowing two runs (one earned) while striking out six batters. Kemp received credit for the save with a masterful job in relief.
   Chambers banged out three hits and four RBIs to lead Unaka while Lewis added two hits for the Ranger offense. McInturff had a good night, going one for one while collecting three walks, reaching base safely four times.
   Collins, Blevins, Pasquale and Huskins added hits for Unaka.
   "I feel like it's important not to let a pitcher run his pitch count up so high this close to tournament time," stated Ensor. "You second-guess yourself sometimes as a coach but we saw some positive things from this.
   "Kemp came in and did a great job and we hit the ball very well in both games. It's great for our school to come in here and win against two quality programs like Volunteer and Daniel Boone."
   Unaka (4-0, 17-9) will travel to Cloudland today to battle the Highlanders.