Unaka fights off Bucs for district title

By Tim Chambers
STAR STAFF
tchambers@starhq.com

   University High pulled off a major upset when it knocked off league champion Unaka 14-5 in the first game of the District 1-A baseball championship on Thursday at Milligan's Anglin Field. In the second game, Unaka simply got upset and took our its frustrations on the Jr. Bucs, winning 12-1 in five innings.
   Tee Blevins tossed a four-hitter as the Ranger defense played error-free baseball in the second contest after committing six in the first game. Blevins recorded only one strikeout, but did not walk a batter.
   "I wanted the baseball after they beat us the first game," said Blevins, who was pitching on only one day's rest. "I didn't want to go on the road in the regionals."
   Unaka jumped on top 3-0 in the first after Cody Collins was pegged and Daniel McInturff singled. A single by Chad Lewis scored Collins for a 1-0 lead.
   From there Rusty Chambers sacrificed the runners to second and third, and was followed by Blevins, who helped his cause with a two-run single for a 3-0 advantage.
   The Rangers added two more in the second as Brent Huskins reached on an error and Collins followed with an RBI single to score courtesy runner Josh Lowe.
   "We were not going to let them beat us a second time," stated Collins. "We got outplayed the first game."
   Unaka (22-13) went for the jugular in the third, scoring four more to extend the advantage at 9-0. Blevins and Ryan Bowers led off with singles and moved to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt from Tyler McCann.
   Huskins singled in one run and Collins added another base hit, increasing the lead at 7-0. Lewis ripped a single up the gut to score Lowe for an 8-0 advantage.
   After walking Chambers, UH made a pitching change, and on the first pitch Chambers broke for second, causing a balk that resulted in another run.
   The Rangers continued their onslaught in the fourth as Bowers got plunked in the noggin, McCann singled and Huskins walked to load the bases.
   Lewis drew a free pass for another run and Chambers lined a hard single to center, scoring two more for a 12-1 lead as Blevins retired the Bucs in order in the fifth to close the deal.
   "UH played super the first game and we knew it was important to jump out on top early," added Chambers. "I want to play a few more games at home on Stoney Creek before I hang up my Ranger uniform."
   Lewis said it was a matter of pride on the line.
   "We have played too hard this season to throw away the district title," added Lewis. "This was gut check time and we took it too them."
   Blevins banged out three hits to lead the Rangers. Lewis, Collins and Bowers added two hits each. Bowers reached base safely four times while Lewis, Collins, Chambers and McInturff reached three times. Chambers was 1-for-1.
   Chambers, Lewis, Collins and Bowers are the lone senior starters on the squad.
   "It's feels good to get to play at home Monday," stated Bowers. "Our fans really get behind us."
   Lewis and Chambers both pointed to their regular-season wins over District 1-AA champion Unicoi and Sullivan South (which has two wins over Science Hill and a win over Dobyns-Bennett) as playing big in the second game.
   "We can play with anybody when we come out ready to play," added Lewis.
   "Some people feel because it's Class A that the teams aren't as good," echoed Chambers. "We want to prove them wrong."
   "We simply got embarrassed the first game," said Unaka head coach Mike Ensor. "Our defense was awful and they crushed the ball.
   "We played like a team ticked off in this game," added Ensor. "You look at the board and we made zero errors. Tee came to me and wanted the ball. Everyone played great, especially our seniors."
   Unaka has now won seven District 1-A titles in a row.
   Game 1
   University High 14
   Unaka 5
   The Jr. Bucs banged out 16 hits on the day, and six Unaka errors proved just as costly for the Rangers.
   UH jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but saw Unaka slice the advantage at 3-2 after a single by Ryan Bowers and a home run from freshman Andrew Church.
   UH reeled off five base hits in the third, accounting for five runs. The Jr. Bucs opened up a can of whoop butt in the seventh, pounding the Rangers for four runs.
   It was the Woodacre show in the first game as Aaron pitched the win on a six-hitter while brother Morgan belted a home run with one aboard. Morgan had a double and single for three hits on the day.
   Toby Hoyle was 3-for-4 with a double while Ryan Collins, Garrison Burton and John Sams added two hits each. Collins had a double and made some great plays in the field for UH.
   Rusty Chambers collected two hits to lead Unaka while Church, Tee Blevins, Ryan Bowes and Daniel McInturff had one each.
   "They gave us a county butt kicking," said Chambers. "We owe them one in the second game."
   Note: Unaka will be at home Monday against the District 2 runner-up, while University High will travel to play the District 2 champion. Game times will be listed in Sunday's Elizabethton STAR.