Rangers earn twin-bill split with Tribe
Published 9:30 pm Friday, April 17, 2015
BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
The ability to bounce back from a bad performance is an important quality in baseball, and on Fridayevening at Claude Holsclaw Field the Unaka Rangers showed they had that quality.
The Rangers committed a pair of errors that led to a 3-1 loss to visiting Hancock County in game one, but bounced back behind senior Laban Carrier’s two hit shutout as Unaka took the nightcap 5-0. Carrier struck out five and walked none in a quality outing that had to feel special after a string of close losses.
“I just focused on throwing strikes today,” Carrier said. “That first game really disappointed us, so we came back wanting to do whatever we could to get a win. I trusted my fielders tonight, and we hit the ball better in the second game and kept the fire going.”
In game one, Unaka faced left hander Branden Fisher, who kept the Ranger hitters off balance for the entire five innings of this one, and Hancock County made the most of a pair of Unaka errors for all three of its runs.
The first two frames were scoreless as senior pitcher Brandon Pierce dueled with Fisher, but in the third, catcher Jonathan Perry singled with one out. With Branson Holt at the plate Unaka catcher Austin Wilson tried to catch Perry off first base but his pickoff throw went into right field and Perry scampered to third.
Holt drove him in with a base hit and stole second. He moved to third on a fly ball to center off the bat of Dakota Trent and he came home on the second miscue of the inning by the Rangers. Keaton Gibson’s RBI hit made it a 3-0 game in favor of the Indians.
The Rangers pushed a run across in the last of the fourth on a hit batter, a walk and a one out single from freshman Dakota Gallimore to load the bases. A ground ball by Chase Markland brought the run home and Jonathan Wright was hit by a pitch to re-load the bases.
A great catch by Indians second baseman Tyler Mullins ended the threat as he snagged a line drive off Wilson’s bat by diving to his left.
Unaka 5, Hancock County 0
Carrier pitched the whole way and senior centerfielder Bobby Davenport had a pair of doubles and two runs batted in to help the Rangers (3-14 overall) earn the nightcap win. Wilson led off the Unaka first with a single, and Davenport ripped a double to center as Wilson scored from first base and gave Unaka a 1-0 lead.
Davenport moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground ball by Carrier for a 2-0 Ranger lead. In the second frame Blake King reached on a two-base error and Pierce sacrificed him to third with a bunt.
“I think if our mindset is right we can win games,” Pierce said. “We were pretty disappointed in game one, I tried to steal a base and help us out the best I could, but I shouldn’t have tried it in that spot. I knew I had to step in up after that.”
Gallimore plated King with a grounder and he moved up a base on the second Indians misplay of the stanza. Gallimore came around on Davenport’s second double of the contest to give Unaka a 4-0 lead.
“I was having a little trouble with the off speed pitch in the first game,” Davenport said. “But I got up on the count early and saw some fastballs in the second one. I was jumping out at things in the first game. I hope to be able to continue hitting like this, but it doesn’t matter what I do as long as we win.”
In the fourth, Indians pitcher Holt lost command and plunked three Ranger hitters beginning with pinch hitter Elijah Egolf and both Davenport and Carrier to load the bases. Wright slapped an RBI single for the final run of the contest.
“We pitched pretty well in both games,” Rangers manager Tee Blevins said. “Pierce pitched well enough to win and whenever you can get a shutout, you have pitched well. Our defense played well – we had those two errors hurt us in the first one – and that has kind of been a monkey on our backs most of the year. We have played a lot of close games and in 10 of our losses we had a lead. We had a 1-0 loss to South Greene but a win is really big for all these boys.”
Hancock Co. 3-1
HC 003 00 – 3 7 1
Unaka 000 10 – 1 2 2
W – Fisher L – Pierce
HC Fisher and Perry. U – Pierce and Wilson.
HC 000 00 – 0 2 2
Unaka 220 1x – 5 5 1
W – Carrier L – Holt
HC – Holt and Perry. U – Carrier and Wilson, Egolf (5).