Rangers cruise past UH

By Tim Chambers

   Lost opportunities can never be regained, so Unaka took advantage of every chance it had to score runs in Wednesday's District 1-A tournament winners' bracket final against University High at Anglin Field.
   Scoring six runs in the first three innings after a long rain delay, Unaka cruised past the Jr. Bucs 6-0 behind a four-hit shutout from junior pitcher Randy Swearingen.
   Unaka took a 1-0 lead in the first after Daniel McInturff reached on an error and Chad Lewis and Rusty Chambers drew walks. Some good base running by the trio on a one-out infield fly allowed McInturff to score, but the Rangers left two aboard when the next batter popped up.
   "We're having to adjust to some slower pitching," said Chambers. "We've got to have patience at the plate and not swing at bad pitches."
   The Rangers got another run before the rains came in the second. Ryan Bowers walked and later scored on a two-out single by Cody Collins.
   As for Swearingen, he was making quick work of the Jr. Bucs after a leadoff single to Ryan Collins he proceeded to retire the next six batters in order.
   Following a one-hour rain delay, Unaka extended the lead to 6-0 after scoring four in the inning. Lewis, Chambers and Swearingen opened the inning with walks off losing pitcher Brandon Bishop, who was relieved by Aaron Woodacre with the bases juiced.
   "We all want to hit when it's our turn at bat," said Lewis. "If they don't throw strikes, then we need to take the walk and someone else will bring us in. Rusty and I have confidence in the guys that hit behind us."
   The "Pepperoni Pounder" Travis Pasquale roped the first pitch for a single, scoring Lewis. Chambers raced home on a wild pitch while Swearingen came home on a RBI single from Tee Blevins, extending the lead at 5-0.
   Pasquale was able to score when Huskins hit into a double play, closing out the scoring.
   Woodacre held the Rangers scoreless over the next four frames but did not strike out a batter. It could have been more had it not been for some outstanding plays in the field by the Jr. Buc defense.
   Pasquale had two hits to pace Unaka while Collins and Blevins collected one each. The Ranger defense played errorless baseball the entire game.
   "Overall I thought we played well today," said Unaka head coach Mike "Acie" Ensor. "I was well pleased with our defense, but we got too relaxed after we got the six-run lead.
   "The name of the game is survive and we did that. This win puts us playing in the regionals."
   Losers' bracket semifinal
   North Greene 16
   Cloudland 8
   Imagine riding off the top of the Roan on a bicycle, and halfway down the brakes go out. Everything was going so smooth, but now you face danger with no way to stop it.
   This scenario is much like the one that happen in the Cloudland-North Greene District 1-A baseball game Wednesday afternoon at Anglin Field.
   Overcoming a 5-3 Highlander lead by scoring 13 times in the last two innings, North Greene won its first game of the year by knocking off the 'Landers.
   "I hate for it to end this way because I'm really going to miss baseball," said Cloudland's Mark Byrd. "It just seemed like everything went wrong today."
   Cloudland errupted for four runs in the first two innings to claim a 4-1 advantage. Mark Byrd and Dakota Benfield led off the first with walks and later scored on a groundout by Clint Steiner and a single from Dane Christman.
   Singles by Benfield and Michael Lunsford accouted for two runs in the second after Byrd reached on an error and Scott Steiner had walked.
   North Greene used a triple by Alan Guinn and a single from Jordan Gibson to cut the lead at 5-3 in the fifth. The Eskimo dogs broke out of the pack for 13 runs in the last two innings, taking advantage of five walks, five errors and five hits -- more than enough to mush past the Highlanders.
   Lunsford and Christman had two hits each to lead the 'Landers while Clint Steiner added a triple. Cloudland finishes the season at 6-15.
   Note: University High defeated North Greene 8-1 in the finals of the losers' bracket and will face Unaka in the championship game today at 4 p.m. at Anglin Field.
   If the Jr. Bucs win, a second game will follow.