Lady Rangers forge tie for conference crown

By Marvin Birchfield

   When talking about softball in the Watauga Valley Conference, the first team that comes to one's mind is the Unaka Lady Rangers.
   For nearly the past two decades, Unaka has dominated in winning all but two conference titles.
   This year was thought to possibly be an exception, due to the lack of experience and maturity of a young Ranger team.
   But with coach Ronnie Hicks by their side, what seemed to be the impossible is once again reality as the Unaka Lady Rangers earned another claim to the title by becoming the 2002 co-conference champs with a 3-0 victory over North Greene.
   "We didn't commit any errors today, and our hitting wasn't that great, but that primarily because of the different speed of pitching we've been facing," said Hicks.
   The Rangers' only blemish in conference play was a loss to University High, which came in the first part of the season after a last-inning rally by the Bucs denied Unaka from capturing the victory.
   In Tuesday's contest with the Huskies, the Unaka defense was flawless as it allowed just two hits and no errors.
   Danielle Williams was on her way to pitching a no-hitter until the sixth inning, with Williams trying to retire Sheila Wine for the final out.
   "I thought I pitched the ball well today, but they got a hold of the ball and hit on me," said Williams.
   The only runs in the game came in the bottom of the third, when the Huskies became a little rattled by committing a couple of errors and walks.
   The Rangers compiled just two hits on the afternoon, both of which came from Jessica Moffitt.
   "Jessica has been the best bat we've had going right now. The others have been hitting, but we just didn't get the bat on the slower pitch," said Hicks.
   A hit from Moffitt up the middle scored the Rangers first run, as it drove home Amanda Wilson.
   "I was hitting pretty bad at the beginning of the season, but I have been able to pick it up lately," said Moffitt.
   Emily Elliot made contact with the ball, which got by the third baseman on an error, enabling Moffitt and Alesha Buckles to score.
   With Unaka still holding its advantage in the last frame, the Rangers retired the first two batters as Medora Carrier made a nice run and catch to knock it down to only needing one out to finish the game.
   "That has been the best played in right field this season, and I guess they were five or six outs made there," said Hicks.
   Williams gave up her second hit of the evening with a shot from Amy Conkin up the middle, giving the Huskies another chance to get something started.
   But Williams kept her composure by getting her seventh strikeout of the game to seal the deal for Unaka.
   "We didn't give up any errors today, so things are looking up and getting better," says Williams.