District 1A Baseball Tournament: Unaka holds off South Greene
Published 11:13 pm Monday, May 9, 2016
GREENEVILLE – Like a Detroit factory churning out Dodge Ram trucks, the Unaka Rangers manufactured runs in the early going of their Watauga Valley Conference clash with South Greene at Pioneer Park at Tusculum College.
Senior lefthander Abram Hill took the mound for Unaka and through four innings kept the Rebels at bay, but in the fifth inning, South Greene caught up with the crafty lefty scoring five runs but couldn’t hold it as Unaka rallied for a 7-6 win.
“No matter what happens they keep their resiliency through everything,” Rangers head coach Tee Blevins said. “It would be easy for such a young team with just a couple of seniors to give up, but they keep fighting, keep pressing and picking these seniors up.Their whole goal was to get through to next week and now they got it.”
South Greene (14-10) wasted a one out double by Weston Collins as Hill retired Justin Casteel on strikes and Brandon McGhee on a grounder to third. The Rangers (23-6) manufactured a run in the last of the second on a walk to John Wesley Hardin, two sacrifice bunts and an infield single by Austin King to give Unaka an early 1-0 lead.
Unaka made it a two run game in the third as Austin Wilson singled to right to lead things off, and was moved to second on a bunt by Hill. Wilson then stole third and a ground ball off the bat of Blake King brought him home.
“When Wilson gets on base we got a chance to do something,” Blevins said. “The whole year, it’s been if we are going to score he’s got to lead the way.”
In the fourth frame Hardin reached on an infield error and moved to second on a wild pitch from South Greene starter Tanner Cheek. Dakota Gallimore moved Hardin to third with a grounder to second and another wild one brought Hardin to the plate with a 3-0 Ranger lead.
South Greene chased Hill in the fifth when the Rebels collected six hits in seven at bats with Andrew Susong opening the stanza with a single to left. Cody Hensley and Cheek followed with singles to load the bases and a single by Ayden Shaw plated the first Rebel run.
Weston Collins reached on a fielder’s choice grounder to second with no out recorded as South Greene closed to 3-2. Justin Casteel’s single to center brought home two runs forcing Unaka head coach Tee Blevins to go with Hardin in relief.
“John Wesley did a good job in his first relief appearance of the tournament and John Ramsey closed the door.” Blevins said. “He got to get a day of rest and that was big for us.”
Brandon McGhee greeted him with an RBI single, but Hardin got out of the jam by getting Cody Davis on a 1-3-2 double play and a strikeout of Nolan Gilliam.
Unaka made it a one run game when Wilson led off with a single and Hill was hit by a pitch. Wilson was thrown out stealing third, but Hill swiped second and he went to third on a ground ball by King. Another wild pitch by Cheek brought Hill around and made it 5-4.
Collins collected an RBI infield hit in the South Greene sixth only to see the Rangers rise up and take back the lead with a three run splurge. Hardin once again reached on an error and a single by Gallimore moved him up 90 feet.
A sacrifice bunt moved both runners up and a passed ball brought home a run. An RBI hit from Austin King plated another run and a triple to center from Wilson gave the Rangers a 7-6 lead going into the final frame.
“These kids never give up and when they were making that rally we didn’t get flustered,” Wilson said. “We kept our composure and I think that was the biggest thing for us.”
Ramsey came on to open the seventh and walked McGhee to open the frame. He then struck out Davis, retired pinch hitter Hunter Carter on a fielder’s choice and got Susong to fly to center to end the game.
“I faced them once this year and I know they can hit the ball,” Ramsey stated. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous, but my teammates backed me up and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Watauga Valley Conference tournament
Pioneer Park, Tusculum College
South Greene 000 051 0 – 6 11 4
Unaka 011 113 x – 7 6 1
W – Hardin L – Cheek.
DP – U 1. LOB – SG 7, U 5. 3B – Wilson. 2B – Collins.