UH deflates Unaka, 9-0

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The University High Jr. Bucs got their revenge.
   With everything on the line in the Region 1-A baseball championship, the Jr. Bucs defeated the Unaka Rangers 9-0 in a tough seven-inning outing on Wednesday night at Joe O'Brien Field.
   "It's a frustrating game," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "We came out, and we just made mistakes here and there. We didn't battle when I thought we had an opportunity.
   "I'm not taking anything away from University High -- they battled their tails off. They battled out of four or five crucial situations with runners on base.
   "We had a chance to put some runs on the board and they battled, and it's a testament to them and their coaches and they deserve to win. They are a tough bunch."
   Although the pressure was on, UH pitcher Drew Harrell was up to the challenge. He went the distance for the shutout, striking out seven batters along the way.
   Said Jr. Buc coach Joe Borden: "You've got to hand it to a great pitching job by Drew Harrell. The bats came alive tonight and gave us that cushion. I was really proud of the hitting tonight."
   "We had good defense, a few errors, but enough that we could still hold them. Drew pitched out of some tight spots that we got him in to. They came alive. It was just an all-around team effort."
   University High opened up with a quick 1-0 lead after Daniel Smith scored from a Ben Shew RBI single. Unaka's defense held the Jr. Bucs off in the second, but gave up in the third.
   The Bucs got going in the third with a walk to Josh Fields, who scored on a Shew RBI double. Two wild pitches from Ben Cole scored Shew and Smith, giving University High the 4-0 lead.
   The Rangers tried their hand on offense, but couldn't work their way out of a pickle. The Rangers left runners in scoring position on five different occasions in the game, but they couldn't capitalize on the scoreboard.
   University High scored two more runs in the fourth inning behind a two-run single from Harrell. The Jr. Bucs tallied three more in the seventh, after a Shew RBI single and a Paul Williams double for two RBIs.
   The Jr. Bucs took the 9-0 win, advancing to face the winner of the Rockwood-Greenback contest on the road.
   Despite the loss, the Ranger seniors had memorable careers in the maroon and white, and never let anyone on the Creek down.
   Commented Ensor: "What can I say about these seniors? They won 99 games in four years, finished in the top eight twice, top sixteen once and the top thirty-two once."
   "That's a testament to what they bring to the table everyday. These seniors are great leaders, they're Rangers."
   Aaron Dugger, Cole, David Perry, Josh Blevins and Jeremy McCann were five examples of senior leadership for Unaka, and all of them lived up to it during their tenure in the Ranger uniforms.
   "It's been great," said Dugger, who will play basketball for Lees-McRae College this fall. "We've played in two sub-state games since I've been here, and for four years now I've learned a lot from Coach Ensor and Coach Long -- they've been like dads to me.
   "They've made sure that everything's all right and I'm gonna miss them. It's just something that you take for granted everyday, cause you think you've got next year, but it runs out on you."
   Said Perry: "I've had a great four years. I've loved every minute of it."
   "It's just been an incredible year, with all of the seniors. I love every one of them: Jeremy McCann, Aaron Dugger, Ben Cole, what can I say. They're just good boys, good ballplayers and I'm gonna miss them."
   Blevins, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury for the major of the season, said: "It's hard to sit and watch all year, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I love these guys, especially to be around them my last year since I couldn't play."
   "We worked hard for four years, and dedicated our lives to it. There are no regrets."
   Said Dugger: "This senior class, we've had our ups and downs but we just stayed together. Last week we won three straight games and the district. That's just the kind of a team we were -- we battled and we battled."
   Ensor was proud of his team's season and accomplishments.
   "We wound up finishing 22-22, a .500 season, with the monster schedule we play," he said. "I wish we could've won 44 games, but you go 22-22 against the teams we play night in and night out and you've had a pretty good year."