By Rick Sheek
ERWIN — After absorbing a brutal beating in the afternoon, Unaka’s softball team bounced back to earn a share of respectability in the nightcap.
The Lady Rangers were pounded by Dobyns-Bennett 12-4 on Friday at Kiwanis Field. Cherokee punched in three late runs to prevail 7-2 in the NFS Tournament.
“The first game was a little bit rough,” Unaka coach Carrie Stevens said. “ Our second game I felt like we played tough.”
The Rangers (4-10) had pulled within 4-2 in the fifth inning of the finale. The Chiefs finished strong, with Unaka making three errors that inning, capped by Olivia Lawson’s towering solo home run.
“They were a great hitting team,” Stevens said. “It didn’t matter where they hit it — they killed the ball, so you can expect a few errors if they put it in play that hard. I was happy with the second game.
“I think we could have done a little bit better, but much better than what we’ve been doing in conference games and games back home.”
Unaka’s Kassie Winters hurled 32⁄3 innings in the opener. She yielded six hits, six earned runs, struck out one and walked 10.
Leslie Colbaugh was on the mound for 1⁄3 of an inning to finish up, allowing two hits three earned runs and fanning one.
Colbaugh then hurled the complete six innings in the final outing. She was roughed up for 11 hits, three earned runs, struck out two and walked one with two hit batters.
“We just had a talk with them today, and basically told them the first half of the season was a little bit rough for us,” Stevens said. “They needed to clear the slate and play hard, do well in our conference from here on out. I feel like attitudes were a lot better today.”
With two out in the first inning, Winters doubled in the first contest before being stranded. D-B led 4-0 in the second, before Unaka’s Brandi Ensor rapped a run-scoring single.
After the Indians’ fourth at-bat, their advantage was 12-1. In the bottom of that final inning, Alicia Colbaugh tagged a run-scoring single, a runner crossed on a wild pitch and Jessica Matheson delivered a run-scoring single.
Leslie Colbaugh doubled in fourth.
D-B’s Samantha Lilley was touched for six hits and the four runs were earned. She fanned five and hit two batters, and at the plate went 2 for 3.
Mattie Lee homered in the first inning of the nightcap to give Cherokee the early lead. Unaka’s Autumn Bradshaw singled in the bottom half and was left on third base.
The Chiefs left the bases juiced in the second, and stranded a pair in the third. The Rangers left two on in the second, and in the third were caught up in a double play before Madison Weaver’s run-scoring single knotted the affair.
“I didn’t see the heads hanging low, like we normally are,” Stevens said. “I think we came into this game wanting to win, not trying not to lose. In think that in the past we’ve been going into the games just hoping that we don’t lose.
“Today, I just think we came ready to play. I thought they had their heart in it a little bit more, so overall the second game I was fairly pleased with.”
The Chiefs went up 4-1 in the fourth. Leslie Colbaugh’s run-scoring single in the fifth cut the deficit to two runs.
Pattie Ruth Taylor picked up the win for Cherokee, scattering seven hits and allowing an earned run. She fanned four and walked four.
The Chiefs’ Sophia Toney batted 3 for 3. Lawson was 2 for 3.
Leslie Colbaugh went 2 for 3. Bradshaw was 2 for 4.
“We had a little rough inning there, but other than that I felt good,” Stevens said. “ We got the bat on the ball well. We just couldn’t sequence hits together to produce runs.”
D-B 223 5 — 12 8 0
Unaka 010 3 — 4 6 1
Lilley and McCaslin. Winters, L. Colbaugh (4) and J. Matheson. W—Lilley. L—Winters.
Cherokee 100 303 — 7 11 2
Unaka 001 010 — 2 7 4
Taylor and Parsons. L. Colbaugh and J. Matheson. HRs—Cherokee: Lee, Lawson.
Editor’s note: Unaka was eliminated on Saturday with a 6-0 loss to Unicoi County.