Rangers fall to South Greene in region championship

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Unaka logo

In a tight game the team that makes the plays usually wins. On Wednesday afternoon at Claude Holsclaw Field that proved true as South Greene held off Unaka for a 3-2 win and the region 1-A championship.

The Rangers (23-7) made a pair of big errors in the top of the fifth giving the Rebels their first lead of the game and senior pitcher Justin Casteel made it hold up with a three hit, eight strikeout performance.

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“My game plan most of the year has been to challenge with my fastball and stay low in the zone,” Casteel said. “One thing you can say about this team is they never quit. We have been down before and shown we can come back and we did it again today.”

Unaka took a one run lead in the last of the third when Isaac Hill took a one out walk and leadoff hitter Austin Wilson was hit by a pitch. Abram Hill then delivered an RBI single to right to put Rangers runners on second and third and it looked like potentially a big inning for Unaka.

Casteel bore down and struck out both Blake King and John Ramsey to wiggle off the hook and keep it a one run contest. The Rebels got that run back in the top of the fourth when Brandon McGhee drew a free pass from Ramsey and one out later, back to back singles from Nolan Gilliam and Andrew Susong knotted the game at 1-1.

Susong had the RBI hit, but a fine relay throw from Austin King in centerfield to Blake King at shortstop nailed Gilliam at the plate for the last out of the stanza and kept it a tie game.

The Rangers took the lead back in the last of the fourth with Dakota Gallimore doubling with one out and he came around to score on an RBI base hit from Austin King to give Unaka a 2-1 lead.

“The bottom of our order, a lot of teams cringe when they come up,” said Rangers head coach Tee Blevins. “But they have a lot of speed and they do a good job of turning it over to the top of the order. They have done that all year and I’m proud of them.”

In the top of the fifth Ramsey plunked Javier Munoz with a pitch and Tanner Cheek dropped down a bunt. Ramsey attempted a bare hand pickup but the ball went past him to Gallimore at third who threw it past first baseman Bryson Street to put SG runners at the corners with no outs.

Aiden Shaw drew a walk to load the bases and Weston Collins hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate the tying run and leave SG runners on first and second. Ramsey then attempted to pick Cheek off at second but his throw was awry allowing both runners to move up 90 feet.

Casteel then hit a sac fly to left, but the Rangers caught Shaw in a pickle between second and third and Gallimore made the put out to end the threat but SG now had a 3-2 lead.

“Unaka has got a great baseball program and I told my boys the only way to win was to outscore them,” said Rebels head coach Phillip Cutshaw. “I knew both pitchers would do a great job and Casteel did his job and came through for us. We have been second the last three or four years so it feels good to get that monkey off my back.”

John Wesley Hardin relieved Ramsey in the sixth after a leadoff hit from McGhee and he retired the next three hitters – the last two on strikes.

“My two freshmen pitchers did a great job,” Blevins said. “(Casteel) is a good pitcher with good stuff. Like I told the team he is one of the better pitchers around. He has a good breaker at times and is hard to hit. John Boy and John Wesley both were great for us in regional championship game pressure. We just needed a couple more runs.”

The Rangers must now travel to Grace Christian (26-13) on Friday in the sectional game and still have a chance to advance to the state tournament with a win in Knoxville.

Region 1A Baseball

Championship game

Claude Holsclaw Field

South Greene 3-2

South Greene 000 120 0 – 3 3 0

Unaka 001 100 0 – 2 3 3

W – Casteel L – Ramsey

DP – none. LOB – SG 6, U 5. 2B – Gallimore, Cheek.