Happy Valley does in Unicoi County

By Kim Richardson
STAR Staff

   ERWIN -- After Unicoi County's Ryan Corn reached first on an error, then scored when Tim Peterson reached on a succeeding miscue, things appeared to be going the Blue Devils' way.
   Happy Valley couldn't string together enough offense to appear capable of winning, especially against the outstanding pitching of Chase Whitson.
   "Chase certainly pitched well enough to win," said Unicoi County head coach Chris Bogart. "He was painting the corners, and his off-speed stuff was working for him."
   Whitson pitched very well throughout. He pitched well enough to win, just like his coach stated. But Happy Valley's Todd Caldwell was Whitson's equal, and then some.
   "Chase pitched very well," complimented Caldwell. "He kept us off-stride and we had to battle throughout," he continued, reflecting back upon Saturday's outstanding pitching duel, won by the Warriors 5-1.
   And though a four-run margin doesn't appear a classic among pitchers, it was the suddenness through which the Warriors struck that caused the apparent ease of victory.
   That devastating suddenness came via the bat of the Warriors outstanding left fielder, slugger Tim Whaley. "Really," said Coach Bogart, "Chase had one bad pitch; and I'm not so sure it was a bad pitch, or rather that Whaley is just a very dangerous batter."
   It all started in the top of the third inning. Or did it? One inning earlier, the Warriors' Jordy Harrison was called out for colliding with the Blue Devils' first baseman.
   Harrison was ejected in the verbal aftermath, which ignited more baseball vernacular, this time between an umpire and Happy Valley head coach Greg Hyder, nearly resulting in more ejections.
   Whitson's shutout continued into the top of the third, and to a full count plus one foulback by Warriors' catcher, Shannon Buchanan. Buchanan roped the seventh Whitson offering into left field and the Warriors were in attack mode.
   "It was a blown call, in my opinion," stated Coach Hyder. "However it had a very profound and positive effect on our ball club. These guys are essentially a very young team, and maybe sometimes we look to others to lead."
   "Well, no reason to look past this guy," stated Hyder, while patting Buchanan on the left shoulder. He lifted us with that at bat. And his leadership is so unrecognized."
   Caldwell was quick to agree with his coach, saying: "He called a great game. He lifted us with that key hit also."
   Buchanan attributed his efforts to, "Just a hard-fought game between to good teams. He (Whitson) pitched well, and all I could do is battle until he finally got one where I could get the bat on it."
   Not necessarily expecting a huge inning, the Warriors attempted to bunt leadoff batter Ryan Garland, who popped up to the catcher. Ricky Morgan, following his two-triple performance from one of Friday's encounters with Johnson County, reached on an error by the shortstop, bringing up Caldwell, who was out via the infield fly rule.
   So it's two outs, two on and Tim Whaley at the plate.
   "Yeah, that was probably the one pitch he'd like to have back," said Coach Bogart.
   Whaley corked it! Deep center. No Doubt. Three to one, Warriors.
   "His homer, of course, was big," said Hyder. "And what he did later."
   Later was a hustle play in the top of the seventh when Whaley beat a double play throw by a whisker. He stole second, then scored on a line-shot single to right field by Ryan Toney, giving the Warriors their fifth run.
   Happy Valley's fourth run was scored in the sixth after Josh Lowe battled and walked before Drew Davis reached on an error by the second baseman. Ryan Garland then smashed a double, scoring Lowe.
   Mizzoula, Mont., native and Unicoi County left fielder Luke Wolawander summed it up from the Blue Devils' perspective: "Chase pitched great. We didn't give him the runs. Caldwell pitched great also. We could never really pick up his breaking ball."