Lady Warriors, Unaka teams  aim for Spring Fling berths

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Today, three local teams will know whether they will be walking in Memphis towards a state championship.
   Unaka will field two squads in the state sectionals, with the baseball team hosting their contest against Christian Academy of Knoxville, while the softball group will travel to Harriman.
   Happy Valley's softball team will also be on the road, facing off against Region 2-AA champion Lenoir City.
   While travel is a big issue for this year's TSSAA Spring Fling event in Memphis, it's still something that each team shoots for.
   A trip to the Fling event wouldn't be a first for the Unaka softball team, but for Unaka baseball and Happy Valley softball, it's unchartered territory.
   The only sad thing about the week is that the state softball tournament does not even take place in Tennessee. The events take place at the Greenbrook Softball Complex in Southaven, Mississippi.
   Although the new Greenbrook facility is top notch, there's still something alluding about not playing for a state title in your own state. It would be like playing the state football championship in Alabama or North Carolina.
   Both Unaka and Happy Valley's softball squads will be on the road Friday against region two champions.
   The Lady Rangers will face a tough battle when they travel to face the Harriman Lady Blue Devils for the first time.
   Harriman needed eight innings to defeat CAK 6-5 on Wednesday, while Unaka fell to University High. However, the Lady Rangers are bringing a tough team and if they play like they are capable, they will have a legitimate shot.
   "We feel like we'll be competitive with them," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks. "If we are solid defensively and hit the ball as well as we have this season, we should be okay. They should be a hittable team."
   Unaka's graduation takes place on Friday and will only affect the team's one senior, who will stay for the ceremony.
   "We have one senior, who's been limited for us this season," Hicks said. "We've okayed it for her to stay and we should have everybody available.
   "They've not faced the kind of pitching we'll throw at them. I think if we play like we're capable, we've got a shot."
   If victorious, Unaka will meet the winner of Friendship Christian and Grace on Tuesday at 10 a.m. central time.
   The Lady Rangers play at 6 p.m.
   The Lenoir City Lady Panthers (32-7) won their first regional title against the team that put Happy Valley out last year on Wednesday.
   In their 3-2 victory over Gibbs, Lenoir City ace Tommee Hicks tossed 10 strikeouts and stole the winning run. She is expected to toss the game against the Lady Warriors.
   However, when the Lady Warriors bring their 'A-Game,' they are as good as anybody at their level in the state and they will need everything they have in order to reach the state tournament.
   They will have to work on preventing costly errors, such as against Unicoi County. However, it has been proven before that Happy Valley can bounce back from defeat and they will make a valiant effort on Friday.
   Should the Lady Warriors come out victorious, they would meet the winner of Marshall County and McKenzie at 10 a.m. CST on Tuesday.
   The Unaka Rangers have one battle before reaching the state tournament. It's something that's has alluded Ranger coach Mike Ensor during his term with Unaka and it's obviously been a goal for many of the players.
   Unaka is a young team and next season, could quite possibly field one of the best teams in the state. It would be a help if the squad could pull out the win tomorrow to get a year of experience.
   But the Rangers will first have to get through the CAK Warriors (18-8) at home. CAK fell to Rockwood, which won their fifth straight regional crown, on Wednesday.
   The Warriors are a solid team, but with ace Randy Swearingen on the mound and a continuous outing of solid hitting, the Rangers should be on the right course to a win.
   Should the Rangers come away victorious, they would play the winner of Chattanooga Christian and Westmoreland at 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday at AutoZone Park in Memphis.