Still stinging from a controversial nine-inning conference loss earlier in the week, Unaka buckled down and got back on track.
A three-run blast from Eli Rasnick provided the cushion. Starting pitcher Thomas Hardin and the Unaka defense completed the job as Unaka held off Chuckey-Doak 6-2 in a non-conference match-up Friday at Claude Holsclaw Field.
“(It’s a good win) anytime you beat Chuckey-Doak,” said Unaka coach Aaron Dugger. “They’re a traditionally good baseball team. It’s definitely a good win and we finished the week off pretty good.
“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball this week. I’m happy with how the kids responded with what happened in Baileyton a couple nights ago getting beat in nine innings. We’re just trying to get better.”
Errors cost the Rangers early, allowing the Black Knights to load the bases in the first inning and squeeze a run across the plate. Unaka’s defense found a way to get out of the pickle, however, and attention turned to the offense.
“We’ve got to come out the start of the game more mentally prepared that we are,” said Dugger. “We kind of started out lackadaisical. Thomas threw a good game. He bared down and buckled down there and got us out of it.”
The Rangers did work with two outs on the board. Danny Bales walked and stole second, then Josh Rasnick and Isaac Ray put the Chuckey-Doak outfield to work with back-to-back RBI doubles to push the maroon ahead.
The Rangers carried the momentum over into the field, halting Chuckey-Doak over the next four innings.
Unaka, however, delivered another blow in the second.
With two outs and two aboard, Eli Rasnick lofted one high into centerfield. Black Knight outfielder Troy Cash thought he had a play on the ball until he met the fence and the Rangers had all the cushion they would need.
“I didn’t think it was going to get out of there,” said Rasnick, one of five different Rangers to have one hit on the game. “But I guess the wind carried it a little bit. Wanted to try to give Thomas a little cushion to pitch with and he did a good job. Then Josh came in and closed it out.”
A pair of one-out walks gave Chuckey-Doak some hope in the sixth inning. Garren Taylor drove a run across the plate and Gage Armstrong loaded the bases with a walk, but Unaka got out of the frame unharmed.
The Rangers got their run back in the bottom of the sixth. Jeffery Yearkes singled, advanced on a fielder’s choice from Thomas Hardin then Jacob Hill loaded the bases with a hit. A walk to Billy Bales scored the team’s sixth run.
Chuckey-Doak had one final shot, but the Knights were shut down with Josh Rasnick in relief in the seventh.
All-in-all, Hardin grabbed the win, striking out five while giving up five hits. Gridley, who gave up five runs before Matt Smith took the mound for Doak in the fifth, claimed the loss.
Josh Rasnick earned the save for the Rangers.
Neither team had a player with multiple hits in the game. Eli Rasnick, Josh Rasnick, Ray, Jeffery Yearkes and Jacob Hill all had one hit each for the Unaka offense. Gage Armstrong, Jameson Painter, Alex McCamey, Taylor and Gridley had one hit each for the Knights.
Chuckey-Doak 100 001 0 — 2 5 1
Unaka 230 001 x — 6 5 2
Gridley, Smith (4) and Taylor. Hardin, J. Rasnick (7) and Colbaugh. W—Hardin. L—Gridley. S – Rasnick. 2B—Unaka (J. Rasnick, Ray). HR—Unaka (E. Rasnick).