University High edges Unaka

By Wes Holtsclaw

   The University High Junior Buccaneers and the Unaka Rangers entered Wednesday night's District 1-A baseball tournament winners' bracket game knowing that the winner had an almost sure shot at the championship.
   It was a tough contest for both teams, as they tried to get as much on the board as possible. University High did just enough to advance on with the 4-3 victory over the Rangers.
   "One of the steps are down," said University High coach Joe Borden, "Step one was to get first seed in the conference tournament, step two was to get into the regional, we're excited about that, and step three is to win Friday and get that home field advantage for Monday.
   "I feel very fortunate tonight to get by with this one, we had good pitching from Ben Shew, and good hitting from Drew Harrell and Daniel Smith. Defense was good today, but it will be exciting tomorrow night, both teams will want it, so it'll be a game to see."
   University High opened up on fire with a towering double from Drew Harrell. Harrell scored from a Ben Shew single, giving the Jr. Bucs a 1-0 lead.
   Unaka bounced right back at the bottom of the frame, with a double from Aaron Dugger, who scored from a Chad Lewis RBI play. Rusty Chambers stole home late in the inning, giving Unaka the 2-1 advantage.
   Defense ruled on both sides throughout most of the ball game, as the next three innings were virtually quiet, until University High stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth.
   Josh Fields got hit by a pitch early, and took two extra bases on a wild throw, setting up an RBI single from Harrell, who went three for five on the day.
   The game stayed at a 2-2 tie for a short while, as David Perry took a fielder's choice base and scored from a Jeremy McCann sacrifice fly to Tyler Blevins, giving Unaka the 3-2 lead.
   "It's always a tight one when we play them," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor, "We gave them all we had, if the hits fall, we win. We hit the ball hard all day.
   "I'm not taking anything away from them, they made the plays they were supposed to make, and had a few more hits than we did, which was the turning point in the ballgame."
   The Rangers held off the Bucs in the fifth inning, but were stunned in the sixth.
   Josh Fields opened up with a single, followed by a Harrell walk. Daniel Smith singled in Fields, tying the game at three all. With the bases loaded, Alex Graves took one for the team, scoring Harrell to give UH the 4-3 lead.
   Unaka had one final chance to pull a shocker, but two strikeouts from Shew and a tough play to Smith ended the game for the Jr. Bucs.