Unaka takes WVC crown with win over Bucs

Published 9:08 pm Monday, April 25, 2016

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It took a dedicated effort to overcome a two-run fifth-inning deficit, but the Unaka Rangers rallied to an 8-4 victory over University High on Monday night to clinch their first Watauga Valley Conference championship since 2011.

The Rangers (17-6 overall, 8-1 WVC) opened the last of the first with single by senior catcher Austin Wilson who circled the bases when the Junior Buccaneers centerfielder misplayed the ball for a three base error and the first run of the game.

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“When Austin gets on base good things happen for us,” said Rangers head coach Tee Blevins. “I have two seniors at the top of the lineup in Wilson and Abram Hill and they are both leaders.”

Hill followed with a walk, stole second and went to third on an infield hit from Blake King to put Unaka runners on the corners. Freshman John Wesley Hardin delivered a sacrifice fly to deep center to bring the second run across and the Rangers led 2-0.

Hill took the mound for the Rangers and retired the first eight Bucs hitters he faced, striking out four until the number nine hitter in the UH lineup – Jake Oligney – drove a seeing eye single in the hole between short and third base. Hill recovered by striking out Cas Blevins to end the threat.

Hill and Bucs starter Jakob Hare matched zeroes through four innings after that until the fifth when Henry Borthwick led off with a single to center. Esau Byrd walked and Oligney sacrificed both runners up 90 feet.

Blevins then dropped a single down the shute into centerfield to bring home one run and DaShawn Hamilton’s infield hit loaded the bases for UH. Unaka then went to King in relief and he uncorked a wild pitch to bring home a run and make it a tie ballgame at 2-2.

King plunked Carter Pollock with a pitch to re-load the bases and the Rangers brought the infield in, which proved costly as Hare’s ground ball went through the Unaka second baseman for an error that saw two UH runners come across and stake the Bucs to a 4-2 advantage.

“We had that one bad inning there,” Blevins said. “We’re a young team but they battled as they have all year, especially in conference play. They don’t give up and Abram pitched well. Blake came in and he threw well in relief, got in a jam when they scored some runs on errors, but we got the lead back and he closed the game for us.”

With one out in the fifth Wilson singled and was picked off first by Hare, but he broke for second and the throw back to first was wide. Wilson never broke stride and made it into second on the play.

“It kind of started off as a mistake,” Wilson said. “It turned into a hustle play when they made a bad throw and I just beat it out. I think it really got the boys fired up too. We have a lot of young kids on this team and I am so proud of them and this conference championship means the world to me.”

Hill walked and with King at the dish Wilson broke for third, and the catcher’s throw sailed into left field allowing Wilson to score and putting Hill at second. Hare then tried to pick Hill off second base but his throw went into centerfield moving Hill to third. King was then hit by a pitch and John Ramsey then delivered an RBI base hit to center to tie the game at 4-4.

Two walks loaded the bases for Unaka and brought home the lead run, but Austin Beauprez grounder to third turned into a force play at the plate for the second out and it looked as if Hare might wriggle off the hook. Austin King thought different and his base hit to right brought home two more runs to give Unaka a 7-4 lead.

The Rangers added a run in the sixth on a double by King that plated Wilson who finished the day 3-for-4 from his leadoff spot.

Unaka 8-4

University High 000 040 0 – 4 6 3

Unaka 200 050 x – 8 7 2

W – A.Hill L – Hare

DP – U 1. LOB – UH 5, U 6. 2B – B.King.