Rangers rule Region 1-A

Pummel University High is championship encounter

By Tim Chambers
STAR STAFF
tchambers@starhq.com

   NASCAR drivers stress the importance of getting off to a fast start when the green flag drops to begin a race. It took Unaka only one inning to lap the Jr. Bucs and put it in cruise control for the remainder of the game Wedneday afternoon.
   Jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, the Rangers never looked backing in claiming a 10-0 win over University High for the Region 1-A baseball championship in a game that took only five innings because of the 10-run rule.
   Daniel McInturff twirled a two-hitter at the Bucs, striking out six without walking a batter. A bloop double in the second inning by Morgan Woodacre and an infield single from Tyler Blevins during the third was the only hits the Bucs could must off the junior lefty.
   "I wanted to redeem myself for the way I pitched against them last time," stated McInturff. "They hit me hard the last game even though I threw a no-hitter against them at their place."
   After retiring the Bucs in order, Unaka cracked open a can of whoop-butt that produced five runs in the first inning. Cody Collins led off with a walk before Tyler McCann reached on an error.
   Chad "Rooster" Lewis gave Unaka a 1-0 lead when he smacked a double off the right-center field wall to score Collins. McCann was able to score on a wild pitch, giving Unaka a 2-0 advantage.
   "Everyone on the team is focused right now as to what we need to do to reach the state," stated McCann. "You can't take anyone or any game for granted."
   Unaka took a 4-0 lead when Rusty Chambers crushed a pitch onto Highway 91 over the right-center field wall -- a home run that appeared to fire up the Ranger crowd and deflate the Blue and Gold faithful.
   "I think we came out ready to play today," said Chambers. "We take pride in our school and athletics here on the creek."
   "We know Rockwood or Harriman will be tough but we played good teams all season. "I want a shot at another state championship."
   Unaka added another run after Ryan Bowers singled and later scored on an error. It might have been worse, but the Rangers left the bases loaded to end the inning.
   Unaka added a solo run in second after Randy Swearingen lined a single to right and later scored on a double from the "Pepperoni Pounder," Travis Pasquale.
   The Bucs threatened in the third after Aaron Woodacre walked. A diving stop by Chambers on a ball hit by Blevins up the middle might have prevented a run from scoring in the inning.
   McInturff was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam after pegging a batter by striking out the clean-up man to end the inning.
   The Rangers added a single run in the fourth, when Huskins singled and Collins and McCann followed with walked. Lewis brought home a run with a grounder to up the lead to 7-0.
   Woodacre pitched out of the jam by catching Chambers looking and getting Swearingen to ground out.
   Unaka used a three-run fifth inning to end the contest. Huskins singled before Collins reached on an error. After a fielder's choice, Lewis walked to load the bases.
   Chambers got an RBI by walking on four pitches, then Swearingen laced a single to right scoring McCann for a 9-0 lead. Pasquale then sent a shot off the ankle of Brandon Bishop to bring home Lewis for the win.
   Swearingen and Huskins both had two hits for the Rangers while Lewis, Chambers, Pasquale and Bowers collected one each. Collins, walking twice and getting beaned once, reached base four times and scored two runs.
   Chambers had three RBIs while Lewis and Pasquale added two each.
   "We know that we're going to have to play either Harriman or Rockwood and both of them are great teams," said Lewis. "We know we'll have to play good to win but we love playing at home."
   Added McInturff: "My defense was outstanding today. Tyler, Rusty, Cody and Pasquale made some great plays in the field. That was the difference in the game."
   McCann made a circus catch to end the fifth by leaping high in the air to take away a sure double off the center field wall by Ryan Collins.
   "We came out with a lot of intensity," stated Unaka skipper Mike "Acie" Ensor. "Daniel pitched a super game and our defense was fantastic."
   "We hit the ball hard the entire game. We know we will face a very good team (Friday)."
   "These kids have responded to every challenge they've faced this season. I think we will come ready to play. They know what it takes to win at the next level."
   Note: Bishop was taken to the hospital for X-rays of a possible broken bone in his ankle but the results indicated only a bruise. Unaka coaches, players and fans want to wish Bishop a speedy recovery.
   Unaka will play Harriman in Friday's sectional beginning at 4:30 at Claude Holsclaw Field. UH travels to Rockwood for its sectional contest. The winners advance to the state tournament.