By Rick Sheek
Unaka’s baseball team didn’t buckle under pressure.
The Rangers came through with a 4-3 Watauga Valley Conference victory on Monday at Claude Holtclaw Field. University High had loaded the bases with two out in the seventh inning, before Josh Rasnick served up a pop foul which catcher Weston Colbaugh gloved to decide the outcome.
“I felt like we controlled the whole game,” Unaka coach Aaron Dugger said. “It kind of got away there at the end. They got a couple of a little bloop hits and put a little pressure on us, but we had some kids step up.
“Rasnick, he did what a senior is supposed to do. He came out, we were backed into a corner, and he pitched his tail off — and he got us a big win that we needed.”
Rasnick had yielded just two hits when the Rangers (6-8, 2-1) carried a 4-1 advantage into the final inning. UH (9-6, 2-2) then came to life after the first two Junior Bucs were retired.
Andy Hardin and Stephen Bartow each delivered run-scoring singles to cut the deficit to one. On Bartow’s hit, the lead runner was held up at third base even though the ball was still in the outfield.
Rasnick was touched for six hits and allowed two earned runs. He struck out five and walked one, while hurling a wild pitch.
Bartow also went the distance, giving up four hits and two earned runs. He fanned four and walked two.
A UH baserunner reached second base following an error and stolen base in the first inning. Rasnick recorded two strikeouts to end the threat.
The Junior Bucs turned a double play to retire Unaka in the bottom half. UH left a runner, who reached by error, on first in the second.
The Rangers grabbed a 2-0 advantage that inning. Isaac Ray belted a double and Jeffrey Yerkes delivered a two-run single.
UH had two runners on base in the third, before Rasnick again responded with a pair of strikeouts to retire the Junior Bucs. Unaka went up 4-0 that inning.
Billy Bales led off, reached base on an error and advanced on another error. Eli Rasnick singled him in.
Rasnick stole second, before Josh Rasnick’s run-scoring single with two out.
UH’s Jake Bacon doubled in the fourth and an error put another runner on base, but the Rangers escaped. Unaka went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half, as the Junior Bucs did in the fifth.
Billy Bales led off that inning with a single, reached third on an error, before a UH double play retired the Rangers.
Rasnick disposed of the Junior Bucs 1-2-3 in the sixth. Unaka got one man on in the bottom half, but he didn’t get past first base.
Hardin batted 2 for 4. The Rangers avenged a loss earlier this season in Johnson City.
“Anytime you beat them it’s always a good win for you,” Dugger said. “The kids get up for it, and the kids appreciate it and they get after it. I’m tickled for them, and it was one we needed too.”
UH 000 100 2 — 3 6 5
Unaka 022 000 x — 4 4 3
C.Bartow and Hardin. J Rasnick and Colbaugh. W—Rasnick (2-3). L—Bartow (0-1).