By Tim Chambers
They say that breaking up can be hard to do, and so can growing up when you’re a young baseball team. Unaka came out on the short end of a 14-3 decision against Johnson County at Claude Holsclaw Field on Monday afternoon.
“The Rangers played well at times, but Johnson County’s experience was a determining factor in the outcome.
“We’ve got quite a few kids that haven’t played, and that includes some eighth-graders,” said Unaka head coach Tee Blevins. “We’re starting a lot of younger kids and they’re gaining experience. At the first of the year we couldn’t throw strikes or hit well; now we’re getting a little better at both. We’re improving, but we still got a ways to go.”
Unaka held a 2-0 lead after one. Austin Taylor’s RBI single scored Austin Beauprez, who had reached base on an error. He too would cross the plate before the ’Horns could escape the inning.
The Longhorns (8-1) got one back in the second, then took the lead for good in the third inning by scoring three times. Payton Fenner, Cody Bailie and Logan Sargent would all single and score. Samuel Icenhour came home after drawing a walk.
Johnson County’s 4-2 advantage would increase to 9-2 after scoring five more runs in the following frame. Three walks hurt, but a pair of doubles by Brandon Vannoy and Bailie would do most of the damage. Both runners scored in addition to Nick Whitner, Fenner and Icenhour.
Johnson County put the game away in the sixth inning by lighting up another five runs on the board, upping the ante to 14-2.
Bailie would pick up his third hit of the game. Fenner drove home two runs with a single. Making matters worse was the variety of ways that Longhorn runners reached. A walk plus a passed ball on a strikeout and a catcher’s interference call was sandwiched in between the two hits.
The Rangers (2-6) did get one back in the sixth, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the 10-run rule from occurring. Jesse Richardson drove home Austin King, who had singled with a solid base hit. Abram Hill had one as well, but was left on base along with Richardson.
Taylor, King, Hill, Richardson, Alijah Egolf and Micah Hunt had base hits each for Unaka.
Bailie went 3-5 to lead Johnson County. Sargent had a pair as did Fenner.
The trio of Sargent, Whitner and Vanhoy pitched two innings apiece, with Whitner getting the win. King took the loss.
“We’ve got nine players back from last year — a lot of experience,” said Johnson County skipper Julian Crews. “We’re predominately an eighth -rade team. Several of them will play at the high school next year. On paper they’re one of the best team’s we’ve had, but they’ve got to go out and prove it on the field. We had a great effort today — the kind we’re looking for each time out.”
Johnson Co. 013 505 — 14 9 1
Unaka 200 001 — 3 6 3
Sargent, Whitner (3), Vanhoy (6) and Icenhour. King, Taylor (4), Hill (6) and Richardson. W—Whitner. L—King.