Unaka's stay in tourney brief

Rangers succumb to Mt. Pleasant, Chattanooga Christian

By Tim Chambers
STAR Staff

   MEMPHIS -- The 10-hour trip on the big yellow taxi only got longer for the Unaka Rangers.
   Finishing one game before beginning another in a three-hour span, Unaka lost to Mt. Pleasant 15-5 in six innings and Chattanooga Christian 10-2 on Tuesday at the University of Memphis, where the Rangers were eliminated from the Class A state baseball tournament.
   Mt. Pleasant made things a mountain of misery for the Rangers in the first-round contest. Banging out 10 hits, including three home runs, the Tigers were too much for Unaka to overcome.
   Unaka self-destructed in the first inning, misjudging two infield pop-ups at first and third, and making two more errors on a ground ball hit to third, resulting in the runner going from first to home -- much like a T-ball game.
   Mt. Pleasant had a 5-0 lead at the end of the first, and led 7-0 at the close of the second frame.
   The Rangers tried to rally in the third behind singles from Brent Huskins and Cody Collins. Chad Lewis ripped a single up the middle for two RBIs, and later scored on a groundout from Rusty Chambers.
   Unaka added two more runs in the sixth after Travis Pasquale reached on a fielder's choice, followed by a Tee Blevins single.
   Ryan Bowers slapped a double into the gap, cutting the margin to 12-5, but Mt. Pleasant kept crushing the ball. Bubba Holt, the winning pitcher, sent a Randy Swearingen fastball some 335 feet over the wall for a three-run homer to end the game.
   Lewis, Blevins, Collins, Huskins and Bowers had the only hits for Unaka. Randy Swearingen went the distance on the mound for the Rangers.
   In a losers' bracket confrontation with Chattanooga Christian, the Rangers failed to fend off elimination.
   The Chargers exploded for 10 runs in the fourth inning to erase a 2-0 Unaka lead.
   The Rangers jumped out to their lead in the first as Collins beat out an infield hit before Lewis came through with a single. Both runners moved up on a groundout by Chambers, then scored on a "Texas Leaguer" single by Travis Pasquale.
   Blevins was perfect on the slab until the Chargers broke loose in the fourth, garnering eight hits, including two triples and a pair of doubles, in the onslaught.
   Daniel McInturff pitched the final three frames, holding the Chargers scoreless on two hits.
   "Pepperoni Pounder" Pasquale banged out three hits in four trips to the plate to lead Unaka. Lewis had an outstanding tournament, going 2-for-4 and playing outstanding in the field.
   "This is a great group of kids," Unaka head coach Mike "Acie" Ensor said of his players. "It hurts when you drive this far and go two-and-out. But on the positive side, we won 26 games and finished as one of the top eight teams across the state. I'm sure many teams would have loved to have had this opportunity."