Unaka hoping to show gains with young group

Published 11:04 am Monday, March 14, 2016

Rangers baseball
The Rangers fell short of a bid to the region tournament last season dropping a 12-11 decision to University High in the district. This season the Unaka hopes that an inlux of good freshmen and a solid senior class will help propel the Rangers to the next level.
In baseball, pitching and defense are keys to success and Unaka will have a pair of freshmen on the hill in John ‘Boy’ Ramsey and John Hardin along with sophomore Blake King and senior Abram Hill.
“We have two freshmen, a sophomore in Blake King, who is returning and Abram Hill,” Rangers manager Tee Blevins said. “Those are the top four right now who should get a lot of innings. Dakota Gallimore will play the outfield, but he can pitch as well, as will Austin King.”
Senior Austin Wilson returns as the catcher and should bring a stabilizing influence on the young hurlers. Freshman Bryson Street looks like the first baseman with Hardin playing second or third when he is not pitching. Ramsey will play one of the corner positions when not on the hill and Blake King will be the shortstop on days he is not pitching.
The outfield has seniors Brent Parlier, Austin King and Hill anchoring the outer defense with sophomore Hunter Rice getting time in the outfield along with sophomore Dakota Gallimore and junior Austin Beauprez.
“In the outfield we have three seniors in Brent Parlier, Hill and Austin King,” Blevins said. “In the infield Ramsey and Hardin will move around with Ramsey at the corners, Blake King at shortstop and Street at first base. Another outfielder you can put in there is Hunter Rice.”
With a lot of youth – half of the 16 man roster are freshmen – Blevins will have to manage through some growing pains for sure playing in the tough Watauga Valley Conference where Hampton looks ready to dominate.
A pair of freshmen that could see time as courtesy runners are Devon Jarrett and Brandon Combs as well as Beauprez.
North Greene returns at least one solid starter and South Greene will once again challenge as will University High, so it will be tough sledding in the early going as Unaka opens with Tennessee High on March 14 and then takes on Sullivan East on the 16th. Both of those are home games with both varsity and junior varsity games scheduled.
“We have a tough schedule and we have already had two scrimmages with another scheduled for tomorrow,”Blevins said. “We haven’t had this many scrimmages in a long time. The weather has helped a lot, we usually have a lot of rain or even snow this time of year. I feel like we have a lot of talent, especially in pitching and we should play good defense. Hitting will take a little bit of time, especially for the young guys who haven’t seen this level of pitching, but they have the talent and I think that with repetition they will get better.”
The WVC schedule begins on March 21 with a road game at North Greene, followed by road games at Hampton on the 22nd and UH on the 24th. In addition to the conference schedule, the Rangers will face Johnson County on March 28 on the road followed by Elizabethton at home on March 30.
The Rangers will also face the likes of Sullivan Central on the road on April 8, a home matchup with Johnson County on the 11th and Sullivan South on the road on April 15 and finish the regular season with an away game at Sullivan North on April 27, just prior to the tournament at Elizabethton on April 29-30.

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