UH overcomes Unaka for 1-A softball crown

By Marvin Birchfield

   JOHNSON CITY -- University High continues to have the Lady Rangers' number this season, with the Lady Jr. Bucs defeating Unaka 5-1 for the Region 1-A championship on Thursday.
   "These kids have worked hard all winter long, and it's been a while since University High has won a region, so it's really refreshing to be able to do well against a great ball team," said University High coach Josh Petty.
   The Jr. Lady Bucs played a near-perfect game throughout, with pitcher Cori McVeigh allowing just one hit on the evening as the team dedicated this victory to the memory of fellow classmate Heather Sadler.
   "I knew we were going to come out and play good today, and we wanted to dedicate this win to Heather Sadler, so we won," said McVeigh.
   In the top of the first, the Jr. Bucs jumped out to a 2-0 lead as a single to right field by Stacy Keller drove in Jessica McNutt and Duff Reardon.
   "I started three years ago, and a lot of my players were eighth graders and freshman, so now it's just starting to evolve and show up on the field," said Petty.
   The Rangers were unable to capitalize in the second frame from two walks pitched by McVeigh, as she was coming off a no-hitter in the semifinal match-up with Powell Valley.
   "All year we have played steady defense, and we don't hit with a lot of power at times, but when you put the ball in play, then good things will happen," said Petty.
   McVeigh eluded the inning with a ground out to the shortstop, and continued to throw her second consecutive no-hitter throughout the first six frames.
   "It's exciting," McVeigh said. "We were pumped and ready, and my catcher Torey Crane did a good job, so now were looking forward to Friday."
   Danielle Williams was doing a good job at the mound for Unaka, as she gave up just one hit through the first four frames.
   The Jr. Bucs added to their advantage in the top of the fifth, when a shot up the middle from Crane brought home Kelly Fosler.
   A sacrifice fly by Reardon drove in Georgia Walker, then a single to left field from Keller made it 5-0 with Crane crossing the plate.
   "I think they're a lot more mature than we are, but that will even up next year," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks. "I'm really proud of my team, though. They (UH) have a good team and great chance of going on down to Memphis on Friday, but so do we."
   The Bucs threatened to score again in the top of the sixth, when courtesy runner Tori Vance attempted to come home after a throw to first base.
   "I'm just glad we didn't give it away," Hicks said. "Two throwing errors were all the errors the defense made, and if we can do that on Friday, then we might have a chance."
   Vance was caught in between third base and home, with Emily Elliott making the tag-out.
   The Rangers were finally able to break through their hitting slump in the last frame.
   A hard hit from Brittany Taylor to the third baseman and fielding bobble allowed her to make it to first.
   The one hit of the evening from Unaka came when Megan Heaton smacked a single to center field.
   "We've been batting in practice, so we just need to keep working on it," said Heaton.
   The shot advanced Taylor to third base to set up their only score of the game.
   "Confidence is what we need for the talent is there, but we just need to have the confidence with us," said Heaton.
   A ground out from Kristen Moffitt to the pitcher and throw to first brought home Taylor, but this was all that scored, as the next batter flew out to left field for the final out.
   "We didn't give it away, we just got beat," said Hicks. "We hit McVeigh a lot better the last time we faced her, and we were hitting good on the pitching machine the last two days, but it's different when it's live, though."