Lady Rangers corral Jr. Bucs

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   It was the third meeting within the past two weeks between the Lady Rangers and University High, and once again Unaka found a way to escape a wild and woolly event, winning the Region 1-A softball championship by a final of 4-0 at Ronnie Hicks Field Wednesday night.
   "I knew it was going to be a dog fight, and I thought we were able to hit the ball better this time against McVeigh than we had in the past," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks, whose team will host a sectional game this Friday night at 6.
   This was another tooth-and-nail scrap with both teams receiving excellent play from the mound, where Unaka's Danielle Williams and Jr. Lady Buc Cori McVeigh toiled away.
   "We've played them five times now, and it's been five good ballgames, but unfortunately we've came out on the losing end more times than we wanted to," said University High coach Josh Petty.
   Williams surrendered just one hit on the evening, which didn't come until the sixth inning of play, and she retired nine batters by strikeout.
   "I thought we had a real good game, and I pitched well and had a great defense backing me up," said Williams.
   McVeigh had a steady showing also, not allowing any earned runs to cross the plate as she gave up a total of five hits.
   "We came out pumped up and ready to play, but we didn't get down on ourselves," said McVeigh.
   Neither team was able to acquire a hit until the third frame, when Danielle Carr knocked one into right field.
   Unaka, with two runners on base and two outs, was not able to cash in as Alesha Buckles popped out into right field.
   In the fourth frame, the game got a little crazy as Unaka put runners on second and third base when back-to-back errors were committed by the Buc defense.
   Then designated hitter Mandy Roberson knocked a fielder's choice, which forced University High to go after Jessica Moffitt, who was trying to come home.
   This turned into a chase down between third and home with Moffitt trying to get back to third.
   The only problem with that was pinch-runner Shannon Largent had already made her way to third from second. Realizing Moffitt was attempting to come back to base, Largent decided to run back toward second.
   By that time Roberson had come around to second, causing more confusion between the three base-runners. Finally Moffitt was tagged with no place to go, and Largent had gotten herself into a chase down between second and third.
   Then a throw from the catcher toward second became a crucial play of the game. The ball sailed into the outfield, which allowed Largent and Roberson both to score and make it a 2-0 game.
   "That one play worked out in our favor when they threw it away, and I guess it would have ended 2-0 if not for that," said Hicks.
   Three errors in the fourth proved to be costly for the Bucs, who had played an excellent game till that point.
   "We are a little disappointed, but we're going to try to beat the next team we play, and maybe come back next year and win," said McVeigh.
   The Rangers came up with hits in from Buckles and Moffitt in the fifth frame, both dropping in right field, but were unable to capitalize with the Bucs making two consecutive outs.
   The first and only hit of the night for University High came in the top of the sixth, when Stacey Keller hit a grounder that bounced up over the pitcher and right past the pursuing second baseman.
   This denied Williams from getting her first no-hitter, but regardless her performance was flawless.
   "They got one hit off me today, but I'm going to get one of them no-hitters one of these days," said Williams.
   The Ranger defense ended up holding, and took another crack at the bat trying to add to their lead in the bottom of the frame.
   Kristen Morley received a walk, followed by a double from Kelly Allen into right.
   "My ninth batter drills a double to get us rolling in the last inning, and she has struck-out seven out of nine times against McVeigh in the last three games, so that helped," said Hicks.
   Amanda Wilson next to bat, hit a grounder to the second-baseman that bounced out of her glove to allow Morley to come home.
   "I think both of us are pretty evenly matched teams, but we have an inning a game where we commit errors and they have cost us," said Petty.
   A sacrifice fly from Carr to center field knocked in Allen, giving the Rangers their last run of contest.
   With one last chance at bat for University High, Williams turned it up a notch on the mound by striking out three of the last four hitters faced.
   "We have started becoming consistent, and I believe this team can do it and make it back down to Chattanooga," said Hicks.