Unicoi comeback stuns Riverdogs

By Wes Holtsclaw

   It appeared as though two leads would be enough, but they weren't as Unicoi County battled back twice to defeat the Riverdogs 8-7 at Cannon/Gouge Park Thursday evening.
   "We came out and had a good first inning, offensively and defensively," said Riverdogs coach Gary Smith, "We got relaxed for the next five, and let them back in. We came back in the bottom of the sixth, then they came back when they needed to at the top of the seventh."
   "They did what they needed to win. It was a good lesson game for us, probably a good one for us to look on."
   The Riverdogs came out fired in the first inning, sending three consecutive Unicoi batters back into the dugout. The 'Dogs appeared to have that same intensity their first time at bat.
   Weston Isaacs and Josh Guinn started the Riverdogs off with singles. Preston Smith stepped up and singled in Isaacs, followed by Cory Hilton, who singled in Guinn, and Mitchell Blevins, who had a sacrifice fly for Smith.
   Troop Harris followed with an RBI single for Hilton, and Austin Taylor's sacrifice fly scored Harris, giving the Riverdogs a comfortable 5-0 lead.
   Unicoi battled back with a single from Drew Rice, who scored from a David Horton single. The Riverdogs battled Unicoi and got out of the inning, only releasing one run.
   For the Riverdogs, the second inning was completely the opposite behind the bats, as the team went down with three consecutive outs to Unicoi County.
   The third inning signaled a comeback for Unicoi, as they scored four runs in quick fashion to tie the game at five a piece.
   Jordan Haun singled in Josh Edwards, leading to a Andrew Harris score from Jessie McCormick, and a Haun scored from David Horton.
   Haun scored late in the inning off of an error, pulling the momentum towards Unicoi County's direction.
   The Riverdogs bounced back with two straight singles from Cory Hilton and Mitchell Blevins, but it wasn't enough, as Unicoi recorded three straight outs in the field, keeping the game at 5-5.
   Unicoi bounced back after a strong defensive hold, to hit into an opposing defensive brick wall, as the 'Dogs sent down three straight of their own.
   The game was a defensive showcase through the sixth inning, where Unicoi posed a serious scoring threat, with Travis Locknar and Adam Bogart around the bags.
   However, it was not to be, as the Riverdogs advanced to the bottom of the sixth humming a scoring tune, and they succeeded.
   Opening up with two strikeouts, it didn't look good to be in the Riverdogs shoes. But Josh Guinn stepped up, advancing two bases on a Unicoi error.
   Preston Smith stepped up and hammered a shot up the middle, with a big double, scoring Guinn to re-take the lead.
   Cory Hilton followed up with a single of his own, scoring Smith to give the Riverdogs a big 7-5 lead, with one frame away from victory.
   Unicoi came back strong, after singles from Josh Edwards and Andrew Harris. Jordan Haun followed up, scoring Edwards with a single, and Drew Rice delivered a single of his own for Harris.
   With the game tied, Jordan Haun crept into scoring position, and after a passed ball, triggered a close call at the plate with a comeback score for Unicoi County.
   Unicoi's 8-7 lead signaled one last shot for the 'Dogs. But it wouldn't stand, as Andrew Harris swatted down three batters, giving Unicoi the victory.
   The Riverdogs continue play this weekend with a game at Cannon/Gouge Park.