Lady Rangers beaten by UH, forge rematch by knocking off Cloudland

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Staff

   The Region 1-A softball tournament continued on Tuesday, with University High taking out chief rival Unaka 5-0 in the winners' bracket final at Hicks Field.
   "As a whole team, we have played one of our better games that we have all year," said UH head coach Josh Petty. "We came out nothing to nothing and had some timely bunts. We got key hits when we needed to, and ran the bases well."
   "I'm not disappointed," said Unaka head coach Ronnie Hicks. "When you're that close, it is hard to beat them three times. I felt like we would pitch out of it. They got hits and we didn't. I say you get beat and that is softball.
   "Using Dani [Williams] and Ryann [Musick] has always worked for us," he said. "I just think they are too good, and too aggressive that if they see one girl for seven innings, somewhere in the late innings, they are going to start tagging her pretty good. We are hitting [Cori] McVeigh better than we have."
   The first four innings went without any runs. In the top of the fifth inning, UH's Brittany Carson hit a fly to Musick and was caught out. Cori McVeigh came behind her with a roll to first and was tagged out.
   Musick then walked Kelly Foster. Georgia Walker followed by hitting a line drive to center field for a double and an RBI. From there Jessica McNutt walked and Cori Dodson bounced a hit to first and was out on base.
   UH had two more runs in the sixth from Tori Vance and Walker. In the seventh, Dodson and McNutt would both earn runs.
   UH pitcher McVeigh had eight strikeouts and the defense behind her to keep Unaka from coming across the plate. The Rangers had six runners left on base in the first four innings. They simply couldn't hit off of McVeigh when they needed to.
   "My defense backed me up," McVeigh said. "If it wasn't for them, it couldn't have gotten done so well."
   "We worked really hard in practice," shortstop Kelly Foster said. "We just came out to play and we really wanted to win this game.
   "On Thursday, we are not going to come in overconfident. We are going to have to play our butts off again just to get the win."
   "Obviously, Cori pitched a good game," Petty said. "We backed up the ball well. The outfield saved us from a couple of runs. Those little things are important in the big scheme of things."
   Losers' bracket semifinal
   Cloudland 11
   North Greene 7
   In the second game, both teams came out swinging in what would be the closest game of the night.
   Cloudland started off with a two runs by Nikki Carrow and Nicole Cantrell. The Lady Huskies answered back in the bottom of the first with two runs from Lindsey Evans and Vanessa Dykes, leaving the score 2-2.
   Cloudland earned another two in the second from a double to the shortstop that opened the way for Nikki Cordell and Jessica Ledford. Tryphena Denton pitched a perfect inning for a score of 4-2 going into the third.
   Denton came out in the fourth with a bounce to the shortstop, Haley Williams, but was thrown out at first. Cordell was walked before Ledford hit a pop-up to right field, but was it caught by Jessica Lunsford. Carrow was then walked, but a long, slow drive to the center-field fence for a triple opened the way for Cordell to come home. Blevins then was out at first.
   North Greene opened up with Evans hitting a fly to the left-fielder, Cantrell, but it was dropped.
   Cantrell would move on to third base after sneaking in off of Williams' fouls. Williams would then knock it up the middle for a double and an RBI.
   Dykes followed by hitting a fly to Cantrell, and it was caught. Chelsea Wright then hit another one to left field, which was in turn thrown to second and dropped, giving Wright a triple. Then the play went to home, but catcher Ledford missed the high throw, and Williams slid in underneath her.
   From there Tiffany Weems bounced one to second for an RBI but was caught out at home. The Lady Huskies earned another run in the fifth when Wright hit a home run over the left-field fence.
   In the sixth, Cloudland earned two more runs, after Wright walked three of their hitters, and in the seventh, had three more runs. North Greene couldn't get the hits it needed in the last half of the game, and the lone run by Weems wouldn't be enough.
   "I am very proud of them," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said of his players "They play hard, made a few mistakes, but North Greene did also.
   "We wanted to win a regional game, not just the play-in," he said. "We banged the ball. I thought we were as good as North Greene all season long, but we just didn't play well against them. Tonight we did."
   Losers' bracket final
   Unaka 11
   Cloudland 0
   Unaka took a landslide victory away from Cloudland, just after the Lady 'Landers were coming off their win against North Greene.
   Pitcher Dani Williams pitched a no-hitter, and only walked Daranda Byrd in the first. Unaka came up in the bottom of the first with a single by Kelly Allen.
   Jessica Moffitt hit a fly to center field that was caught, Brittany Taylor was walked, and then Megan Heaton hit her first home run and two RBIs.
   Julie Roberson and Amy Colbaugh was walked, and then Keith switched pitchers to try and stop the Ranger train from running away from them.
   Tara Bishop hit one to left field for a single, loading the bases, then Williams hit a double for an RBI. Amber Woods then hit one down the third-base line, and the ball rolled into Bishop's leg coming home for the second out.
   Allen was then walked, loading the bases. Moffitt then bounced one past first base for a single and an RBI. Taylor then hit a triple, opening the way for Woods, Allen and Moffitt to come home.
   A Heaton fly to left field would then end the inning with Unaka up 9-0. Unaka had two more runs in the second from Roberson and Crystal Noelkers for a score of 11-0.
   "I loved it," said senior pitcher Williams. "We came back. We should have played this way in the first game. Now we have a chance at sub-state no matter what and I hope we will have it here next week.
   "The last time we went to state was the year before I came here," she said. "I want to go there again this year before I leave."
   Unaka and UH will meet in Thursday's championship at 5 p.m. A second game will be played if Unaka wins.