Lady Rangers survive UH

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Correspondent

   The intensity and suspense was excruciating in the District 1-A Softball Tournament on Wednesday, as the two regular season Co-Conference Champs squared-off against one another fighting it out.
   The Lady Rangers advance onto the Championship round by defeating University High in a 1-0 defensive struggle.
   "If we can come out and play tomorrow like we did tonight, then we will come out of here with another district championship," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks.
   Neither team was able to capitalize on opportunities to score in the early going.
   Unaka had a chance to catch some quick momentum in the first inning, when their first two batters got on base.
   Mandy Roberson made base on an error, followed with a walk to Danielle Carr.
   But with a mistake in running the bases and clutch fielding by University High, the Rangers would have to wait another time for a chance to score.
   The Bucs also had an opportunity in the first, after Nina Reardon and Megan Backers both managed to knock singles.
   Unaka's Danielle Williams kept her composure and along with the help of her teammates, the Rangers escaped the frame without surrendering any runs.
   "I had a great team backing me up today, and we only had one error and did really well," said Williams.
   Buccaneer pitcher, Ashley Carson stepped it up in the second and third frames by retiring five of the next seven batters on strike-outs.
   "Both pitcher's had an excellent game, and it came down to a lead-off batter getting around with a ground ball in the in-field making the score," said University High coach Adam Petty.
   Carson finished with a total of 14 on the night, as she gave an excellent effort by giving up just one hit.
   Another runner was left on base for University High in the bottom of the third.
   After leading-off at bat and being walked, Georgia Walker was able to make it to third-base with two outs, but Williams retired Stacy Keller by striking her out, and finishing with a total of seven for the game.
   The Rangers were licking their chops in the top of the fourth, after having bases loaded with just one out.
   This frame produced the only Ranger hits, as Jessica Moffitt smacked one to right-field and Emily Elliot with a grounder toward the short-stop.
   Aleshia Buckles was walked to start the inning, and waited at third-base for the chance to come home with Kristin Morley up to bat and Williams on deck.
   But Ashley Carson bailed the Bucs out, after converting on two consecutive strike-outs.
   University High saw their opportunity to score slip away, when pinch-runner Cori Dodson was called out on a close play at the plate.
   "It was tough to tell, but it was a ground ball back to the pitcher and the runner shouldn't have went," said Petty.
   The only error of the night for the Rangers came, when a throw to first sailed past the first-baseman.
   Megan Backers and Ashley Carson led-off with hits and no outs, but Unaka's defense managed to hold.
   Both pitchers were strong in the fifth frame, as two out of the three batters were set down with strike-outs on each side. After neither team had given in on letting the other team score, the sixth inning became the deciding point of the ballgame.
   Buckles made it on base to start-off for Unaka, when she was walked and advanced to second with a stolen-base.
   A ground-out by Moffitt moved her to third, where she found herself in the same position as before in the fourth frame with one out.
   "I was trying to go in the fourth, but the coach thought I might get out, so we played it safe," said Buckles.
   This time it was a different result, as Julie Roberson hit the ball toward first allowing Buckles to score.
   "I was a little worried going into tonight, but now I think we have our heads on straight and be ready for tomorrow," said Buckles.
   In the final two frames, the Bucs went three and out both times forcing them to play North Greene to see who makes it to the championship round.
   "I told my assistant coach if we can come out in the sixth and make them go three up and three down, then we will win this ballgame," said Hicks
   The North Greene Lady Huskies were successful in knocking-off Cloudland by the final of 21-3.
   "We hit the ball good and only had one bad inning of defense, but we came back and played well," said North Greene coach Sharon Clark.
   The Huskies began the game by scoring six runs in the first inning, and seven more that came in the second.
   Their first run came off of a double from Haley Williams to drive-in Lindsey Evans.
   Cloudland got on the board in the second, after Misty Baker was hit by a pitch with bases loaded scoring Amanda McKinney.
   The 'Landers received two more runs in the third off of a single from Ashley Timbs, which scored Taukia Hughes, and a grounder by Tara Melton driving-in Tonya Simerly.
   Husky pitcher Amy Conkin got the win, while Dedria Stevens received the loss for Cloudland.
   "We're real young and if these kids will stick with it, I think we can come back next year and surprise a lot of people," said Cloudland coach Evangeline Hurter.