In a case of play you today, see you tomorrow, Unaka swept the regular season from North Greene to clinch second place in the Watauga Valley Conference with a 4-0 blanking of the Lady Huskies on Thursday evening at Hicks Field.
Both teams will turn right back around on Monday next in the district tournament to be hosted at Unaka, with the Lady Rangers (5-3 WVC) the two seed and North Greene (3-5 WVC) third.
Junior pitcher Leslie Colbaugh went the distance for Unaka, giving up just five hits while striking out three and walked two.
“She didn’t leave anything out over the plate for them to really hit hard on us,” said Lady Rangers head coach Carrie Stevens. “She had three strikeouts and has been pitching real lately.”
The Lady Rangers struck for a run in the last of the first on hits by center fielder Autumn Bradshaw and an RBI hit from Colbaugh to take a 1-0 lead.
In the third frame third baseman Madison Weaver singled with one out and sophomore Brandi Ensor stroked a double to the fence in left field to plate another Unaka run and give the squad a 2-0 lead.
The Rangers broke the hearts of the Lady Huskies in the fourth – and took away a run in the process – when Talley Bailey singled with one out.
Leadoff hitter Mikaela Pridemore then singled to left with two away and Ensor fielded the ball but overthrew second base and the ball rolled to first where Lynsey Buckles grabbed the loose ball and from her backside threw the runner out at the plate.
The Rangers played overall solid defense in this game, turning one double play and cutting a run down at the plate.
In the fifth Unaka broke the game open with two runs as Ensor doubled once again, this time to right field with one away in the inning. Ensor finished two-for-four with an RBI and a run scored.
“Finally we are seeing the Brandi from last year,” Stevens said. “She’s showing more confidence and Maddie (Weaver) has been coming through for us consistently. The biggest thing that hurt us tonight was we left 11 runners on base.
“We left the bases loaded one inning (third) and you can’t do that. When you’re up to bat in that situation you have to swing the bat. The plate ump was calling the corners all night so you can’t get caught looking.”
Second baseman Alicia Colbaugh then singled to center to put Ranger runners at the corners and Lynsey Buckles bunted for a hit to load the bases.
A North Greene error allowed one runner to score on a ball off the bat of sophomore Shanda Matheson and a ground ball RBI by Bradshaw capped the scoring.
Senior Day was held for the Lady Rangers and Buckles (the lone senior on the team) was honored with roses from Stevens and cheers from her team mates as she stood with her mother Sheila and father Jeff.
“It feels good because we’re playing really good lately,” said Buckles, who said she will attend Middle Tennessee State and study audio production technology. “I hope we can get through district and regional and get back to the spring fling.”
North Greene………………………. 4
The JV Huskies scored four runs in the top of the second, but that only served to fuel the Rangers fire. North Greene got hits from Dottie Yokley, a pair of walks and a two RBI double from Adrianna Weems and an RBI single by Macy McNeese.
The Rangers answered with four runs in the second as well with freshman Lexi Perry delivering a single and Shanda Matheson plating her with a single. Bradshaw had an RBI bunt single and Colbaugh had an RBI grounder.
The Rangers scored two runs in both the third and fourth frames to capture the win. Winters and Jessie Matheson each had a hit, with Perry finishing two-for-two and Shanda Matheson had two hits as well.
Winters got the win in the circle, while Bailey took the loss.
N. Greene 000 000 0 — 0 5 3
Unaka 101 020 x — 4 10 1
Taylor and D. Bailey. L.Colbaugh and J. Matheson. W—L.Colbaugh. L—Taylor. DP—UHS 1. LOB— NG 7, UHS 11. 2B—Ensor 2.
N. Greene 040 00 — 4
Unaka 142 2x — 9
W—Winters. L—T. Bailey.