Overcoming adversity…Jr. Lady Rangers unite to grab share of regular-season crown

Published 8:51 am Monday, May 6, 2019

Somewhere around Stoney Creek, former Unaka Lady Ranger coach Ronnie Hicks has to be walking around with a big smile as he watches one of his former players instilling the same values into her Unaka Jr. Ranger team that he passionately coached into his teams.

Brittany ‘Buckshot’ Taylor Arnett has her team on a roll this season and as a result they Jr. Lady Rangers were able to grab a share of the regular season conference championship with a doubleheader sweep of the Happy Valley Jr. Lady Warriors, 7-0 and 6-0.

In the first game, Hailey Gilman pitched a gem for the ladies from Stoney Creek earning the shutout from the pitching circle.

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Gilman also joined teammates Kylie Blevins, McKenzie Depew, Jill Faust, Alyssa LaJoie, Reagan Shankle, Hannah Carr, Mattie Salyer, and Haley Taylor who all came through with timely base hits and precise base running.

Gilman went back to the pitching circle in game two achieving the same result in another shutout win.

The same cast of players played a huge role in picking up the sweep in the nightcap as the Jr. Lady Rangers finished the regular season at 13-4.

Unaka also saved their best for last as in the previous five games of the season, the Jr. Lady Rangers have allowed only one run in those five games played.

“We are trying to get it back to the Ronnie Hicks style of play up here and get it back to where it needs to be,” said Arnett. “We will never fill Ronnie Hick’s shoes but we want to get up there close.

“I am hoping this is going to be really good for them. We have tried to teach them a lot this year and prepare them for the high school level.

“There was one practice we had that I just wanted to work on diving and every one of those girls dove head first into home plate,” continued Arnett. “That’s just how determined they are to do good. They are a hard-working group and don’t give up. Every single one of them goes hard and I hope that pays off for them in high school.

“Some of these will be college-level ballplayers. They’re tough. If they get a bloody arm, they just rub some dirt on it and keep going.”

Chris Collins serves as the school’s assistant principal and also as an assistant coach to Arnett. He said that the success of the team this season falls on Arnett’s hard work and the team’s resolve to overcome obstacles.

“They have all worked hard in the offseason as Brittany brought them in last fall and worked with a lot of our core players and they have worked extremely hard since then,” Collins said. “It’s not just one person. We have had a lot of adversity and we have had a lot of people step up at different times.

“We have had players ready to go in off the bench and you don’t always have that,” Collins continued. “They have talent too—they are a talented bunch especially our infield. Our outfield has come a long way in the last couple of weeks also.

“It’s been one of those years where we have had a lot of nicks and bumps, but everyone has contributed. Our eighth graders have really set the tone for everybody else.”

Collins also wanted to thank Ryan Shoun for taking time to get the field into top-notch playing conditions as well as Arnett’s husband Bo and her son Bryson for playing an essential part in this year’s team.