By Tim Chambers
Ronald Reagan was president at the time and gas sold for 81 cents per gallon. Sally Ride because the first American woman in space. The year 1983 was also the last time that Cloudland had defeated Unaka in softball before Wednesday.
The Lady Highlanders broke loose for eight runs in the first inning, which led to their 11-1 victory. Cloudland’s head coach Kenneth Chambers and his coaching staff had spent several hours throughout the day, trying to get the field in shape to play after Tuesday’s heavy rains.
They didn’t show any signs of fatigue after the contest ended.
“It’s a big win for us because it’s a testament as to how hard they’ve worked,” said skipper Kenneth Chambers. “We worked on our hitting over the past few practices and today I felt like that paid off. We’re proud of the way they came out ready. It was definitely huge for our kids.”
Cloudland stole the momentum in the first inning with a good defensive play by freshman center fielder Martina Presnell, which kept Unaka from scoring. She hauled in a potential two-run double for the third out with two Lady Rangers aboard.
What followed was a wild and wacky bottom half that allowed them to put a crazy eight on the scoreboard.
Summer Hughes drove home Hope Baker with a base hit just off the shoelaces of the left fielder. Dakota Jarrett followed by ripping a rocket off the shortstop’s arm, allowing Kelly King to cross the plate. Savannah Whitehead had a base hit that kept the rally going and scored. King’s second at bat in the inning produced the biggest hit — a two-run double that scored Presnell and Kendall Mull. Hughes plated the final run with her second base hit in the frame.
“Our coaches have put hope back in this program,” said Hughes. “Before Kenneth and Rusty got here we just came and played. Now we play knowing that we can win. Beating Unaka today was awesome. None of us had ever done that before.”
Unaka coach Carrie Stevens elected to bring in Kassie Winters to get the final out to close out the first.
She proceeded to pitch four scoreless innings before running into trouble during the sixth.
Jarrett singled then scored on a two-bagger by Whitehead. Hunter McKinney and Presnell followed with base hits that drove in their final two runs.
Unaka’s lone run came during the fifth without a base hit.
Brandi Ensor was hit by a pitch. Cloudland’s only error allowed her to scamper home.
“We just can’t seem to find any consistency,” said Stevens. “We just didn’t come out ready to play. We had three errors in the first inning that we should have made plays on, and you can’t give any team that. At this point in the season we ought to know were we stand, but this team doesn’t. Cloudland is a much better team than they’ve been in years past, but there is no excuse for us playing the way we did today.”
McKinney pitched a gem for the Lady Highlanders. She allowed three hits and never walked a batter while going the distance. The junior hurler retired the final eight batters in order.
“We kept our heads up, played with confidence and gave it all we had,” said McKinney. “Our coaches have worked us hard and we’re practicing a lot more. This team is getting better every day.”
Jarrett had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
“People used to laugh at us when we played but that’s not the case any more,” said Jarrett. “Winning a big game like today means a lot to us. Unaka’s got a great softball program and some good players, but we just came out and played well. “
Hughes and Whitehead were 2-for-4 apiece with a pair of RBIs. Presnell added a 1-2 effort with a run batted in. King was 1-3 with two RBIs. Andrea Guinn and McKinney chipped in with one apiece.
Autumn Bradshaw, Winters and Lexi Perry had the only hits for Unaka.
Chambers admitted that he and his assistant coach, Rusty Chambers, still have a bond to the Unaka community — where both of them once coached.
“Rusty and I really care about those kids and that school,” Kenneth said. “We coached several of them in junior high, so it’s tough. Unaka will bounce back because they’ve got great kids and a good team.
It was just our day.”
Unaka 000 010 0 — 1 3 3
Cloudland 800 003 x — 11 12 1
Colbaugh, Winters (1) and Matheson. McKinney and Baker. W—McKinney. L—Colbaugh.