Bulldogs, Rangers split twin-bill
Published 1:54 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023
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A Watauga Valley Conference clash at Scotty Bunton Field saw Unaka surprise Hampton with an 8-4 victory in the opener of a Tuesday doubleheader but the Bulldogs got the last laugh with an 11-1 mercy rule victory in the closer.
Unaka (2-15 overall, 1-5 WVC) snapped a 10-game losing streak with a gutsy win in the opener as Logan Lewis pitched a solid game scattering seven hits while striking out three and walking as many.
The Rangers opened the contest with three first inning runs with Landon Ramsey drawing a one out walk and Brayden Powell doubled him home. Lewis singled, putting Rangers on the corners and after a stolen base, Jaycob Nidiffer brought both runners in with a base knock to stake Lewis with a 3-0 advantage.
The Rangers extended the lead to 4-0 in the top of the third with Rylan Crabtree’s double bringing home the run. Powell ended game one 4-for-4 with two runs batted in and was solid at first base.
Hampton (6-9, 3-3 WVC) got a run back in the last of the third when Josh Whitson and Chance Point both singled and a throwing error allowed Whitson to come across and make it a 4-1 contest.
Powell drove home a run in the top of the fourth as the Rangers opened a 6-1 lead. Micah Gray and Jamol Blamo each singled to open the stanza and with one out Powell ripped a hard smash to shortstop for a base hit that plated Gray and put runners on first and second. Blamo was caught trying to steal third but a wild pitch plated Powell.
Hampton rallied for a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth but Ramsey came on in the seventh and struck out the side to end the contest.
Ramsey took the mound for Unaka in game two looking for a sweep but he was not sharp as he walked five while striking out eight in his three and one third innings of work. Both teams scored first inning runs with Brody Hicks driving in the first run of the game, plating Point who had walked, stolen second and was pushed to third on a balk.
Unaka answered with a run on singles from Blamo and Ramsey and a failed pickoff attempt allowed Blamo to score the tying run.
Senior Josh Whitson pitched a steady game striking out seven while surrendering seven scatted hits and he did not issue a walk.
Hampton plated four runs in the top of the third with Hicks delivering an RBI double and Noah Nichols had an RBI base knock as well as the ‘Dogs took a 5-1 lead. In the fourth Hampton added three more runs with Jayden Kuhn knocking in one run with a base hit and a pair of Unaka errors allowing two more runs to come across as Hampton now led 8-1.
“Whitson was extremely efficient and every time he takes the baseball we feel good about our chances of winning the game,” Bulldogs head coach Nicholas Perkins said. “We are a helter skelter type of baseball team. Our fans don’t know game to game, sequence to sequence, pitch to pitch what they are going to see from us and we must find consistency and we must find the ability to play fundamental defense.”
The ‘Dogs clinched the game in the top of the fifth with three more runs with an infield error plating two runs and Whitson had a key base hit to bring home the mercy rule run. Ramsey looked to spoil the ‘Dogs early win with a base hit and error that put him safely at second base but Whitson bore down and retired Powell, Lewis and Nidiffer for the win.
“We needed this win,” Whitson said. “We played good defense and that gave us an advantage and a momentum boost. For us the post season is what matters most.”
Unaka 301 200 2 – 8 10
Hampton 001 120 0 – 4 7
W – Lewis L – Greenwell
Hampton 104 33 – 11 8
Unaka 100 00 – 1 7
W – Whitson L – Ramsey