Landers hang tough, Rangers advance

Published 7:56 am Tuesday, May 9, 2023

BY C.Y. Peters
     Playing to a 5-4 game in the sixth, the Lady Rangers put four runs on the board and hung on for a 9-4 win over Cloudland in the District tournament.  On the mound for the Rangers was their ace, Trinity Bowers.  In the first, she sits the Landers down one to three, thanks to a couple of good defensive plays by Matte Salyer. In the bottom of the first for the Rangers, Haley Taylor laid down, and beat out a good bunt, Kylie Blevins hit one to right field, and both runs would score when Mollie Buckles sent one to left field.  Salyer would score Buckles on a long ball to center for a double.  At the end of the first, the Rangers led 3-0.
     Ella Benfield would get the ball rolling for the Landers in the second, she reached base and then stole second.  She would score when Layken Blair doubled.  Unaka pitcher Bowers struck out the next two batters to end the inning. Neither team scored in the next couple of innings. The Rangers loaded the bases in the third, but Cloudland turned a double play to get out without a score.
     Benfield would score her second run of the game in the top of the fourth when she beat out a throw from the infield. She stole another base and then scored when Larkin sliced one under the third baseman’s leg.
     Unaka would add two runs in the bottom of the fourth.  With two outs the Rangers were back to the top of the lineup.  Taylor and Blevins collected singles; then Jill Faust belted one up the middle to score both runners. Unaka led 5-1 at the end of the inning.
      The Lady Landers would make a run for the win when Savannah McCoury hit one to center field, Kendall reached base on a first baseman error and both girls would score when Benfield sent on almost to the track just falling short of tying the score up with a home run.  Instead, she reached second but pulled the Landers within one, 5-4.  In the bottom of the inning, Kendall Birchfield looked great on the mound, finishing the inning in only seven pitches, and striking two batters in only two minutes on the mound. “We just kept making errors,” said Coach Kenneth Chambers.
     The Lady Rangers gave Bowers a cushion in the bottom of the sixth when lead-off  Katelyn Dugger walked, Taylor reached for the third time in the game, then Blevins sent one to left field scoring two runs. She would score on Faust’s third long ball of the game giving the Rangers a 9-4 lead.
     Cloudland’s Birchfield would get on base in the final inning, then Benfield hit one up between first and second for what looked like extra bases, but the ball hit the runner for the third out, ending the game.
     Kylie Blevins and Taylor led the Rangers going three for four and scoring three runs each.  Benfield scored two runs for Cloudland and went two for four at the plate.  Bowers picked up the win, and Birchfield suffered the loss.  Peyton Presswood made a great stop at first for an out, and Benfield had several good catches in the field, as did Mattie Salyer for Unaka.
Unaka will play North Green on Wednesday; Cloudland will play Hampton in the double-elimination district tournament.  The games are being played at Ronnie Hicks Field at Unaka High School.

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