Warriors signal end to Blue Devils' reign

By Ivan Sanders

   For 19 consecutive years the Unicoi County Blue Devils have been the reigning kings in District 1-AA baseball, but no more.
   Behind a stellar 12-strikeout performance by Happy Valley sophomore pitcher Ryan Toney and some clutch hitting from catcher Cody Cannon, the Warriors eliminated the Blue Devils from the 1-AA tourney by defeating Unicoi County 3-1 on Saturday at Joe O'Brien Field.
   "Every time we play Unicoi County, it's a dogfight," said a pleased Warrior head coach Greg Hyder. "We knew what we had to do and Ryan (Toney) went out there and did his job, along with the rest of these guys."
   Happy Valley got rolling in the bottom of the third when Cody Whitlock reached on an error, and was followed up with a single by DH Todd Caldwell to put Warriors at first and second.
   Cannon then stepped up in a huge way by taking a John Broyles offering and plastering it between the center and right fielder for a stand p double and two RBIs.
   The Warriors added a solo run in the bottom of the fourth after HV first baseman Jordy Harrison worked Broyles for a walk and worked his way to third. Harrison was knocked in on a solid single from second baseman Joe Howell for a 3-0 Warrior edge.
   From that point, it was a pitching duel as both pitchers were rock solid in keeping each opponent at bay with some great defensive play from their teammates. Toney never appeared to lose any steam, as the Warrior pitcher was consistently clocked around 86 miles per hour on his fastballs the entire game.
   Unicoi County, staring at being eliminated from a tourney it has dominated, was not ready to give up its inspirations of number 20 as they finally made some noise in their last at-bats of the contest.
   Phillip Davis singled to lead off the seventh and made his way around the base path via help from Toney, who was charged with two wild pitches. Scott Galloway drew a base on balls and advanced to second on one of the wild pitches from Toney.
   With runners at second and third, a passed ball off the mitt of Cannon allowed Davis to plate and cut the lead to 3-1, with Galloway advancing to third. Drew Anders drew a two-out walk to put the tying run at first with Matt White coming to bat.
   Toney settled down to entice White into a groundball that was handled by Warrior third baseman Shannon Buchannon to give the Warriors a memorable win and eliminate the Blue Devils.
   "That sure was a critical point of the game, when Cody hit the double to score two runs," stated Hyder. "It gave Toney the confidence having the two run lead and he did the thing I like most about him and that was just doing his job."
   Happy Valley will now face the Sullivan Central Cougars on Monday evening at 5 p.m. at Joe O'Brien in winners bracket play.