Early mistakes have been the catalyst for Unaka’s softball struggles this season. They played a big role in Thursday’s 7-1 conference loss to University High in a rain-shortened four innings at Hicks Field.
The Lady Rangers had seven errors in the field and on the game, while its opponent was mistake-free in the field.
“They don’t have their heads in it and don’t have their hearts in it,” said Unaka coach Carrie Stevens. “I don’t have an answer right now. There’s no intensity and no fire in them.”
The Lady Bucs tallied seven hits and reached with six walks against starting pitcher Kassie Winters and reliever Leslie Colbaugh, while Unaka accounted four hits against winning pitcher Haley Faulkner, who struck out four.
It was a quick advantage for the visitors, who tallied three runs in the opening inning behind a pair of infield errors and three consecutive walks. Only Carolyn Knight, with an RBI single, plated a runner with the bat on the frame.
Unaka got on the board with its lone run in the first. Autumn Bradshaw led off with a single and scored on an RBI hit from Madison Weaver. The Lady Rangers had just four base-runners the rest of the way, none of whom were left in scoring position.
University High added two runs in the second despite facing a two-out deficit after its first two batters. Belle Bright, Mollee Cohee and Knight rattled off consecutive singles, the last two plating runs, for a 5-1 edge.
After Taylor Treadway walked in the third, the Lady Bucs added two more when Tanner Horton tripled and crossed home plate when an errant throw struck the helmet of the base-runner and ricochet to the fence.
The Lady Bucs left two on base in the fourth, but got out of the bottom of the frame with consecutive strikeouts from Faulkner. Lightning and rain ascended around the field before a fifth inning got underway and no improvements in a 25-minute weather delay led to a final.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Cloudland, Stevens wasn’t pleased with her team’s effort.
“I don’t think we were ready to begin with.” said Stevens, whose team fell to 2-3 in conference play. “We had six errors in the first inning yesterday and had at least four today. You can’t start games like that. It don’t matter who we’re playing. We haven’t had one game where we’ve started out strong and finished strong.”
Horton and Knight had two hits each to lead the Lady Bucs, who remained unbeaten in conference play (4-0) with a 13-4 overall mark.
“I felt like we were struggling a little bit, but they overcame it for the most part,” said University High coach Keith Jeffers. “I know we can play better than what we played.”
Unaka begins play in the NFS Softball Tournament in Erwin today.
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U. High 322 0 — 7 7 0
Unaka 100 0 — 1 4 7
Winters, Colbaugh (2) and Matheson. Faulkner and Bright. W–Faulkner. L–Winters. 3B: University High (Horton).