By Tim Chambers
A long shot at best to win another Watauga Valley Conference championship became the impossible dream for Unaka on Wednesday. The Lady Rangers saw their title hopes go up the Creek in a 7-6 loss to University High.
The Rangers were rained out in their last meeting with UH after trailing in that game. This time they started over, but fell behind 6-0 before almost rallying to win.
“We just can’t wait until the fifth inning to starting hitting,” said Unaka head coach Carrie Stevens. ‘We’ve taken a lot of batting practice over the past two days — we’ve hit it well, but whenever we get in games for whatever reason we struggle. You can’t let a team like UH score seven runs, then decide to start playing. “
The Junior Bucs (5-0, 15-3) failed to score in the first inning despite getting three base hits. “Lady Luck” would vanish for the Rangers in the second frame.
It all started when Taylor Treadway reached on an error and ended with a two-run single by Belle Bright. Tanner Horton drove home the first run of the inning with a solid base hit. The Lady Bucs led 3-0.
It almost got out of hand in the next frame after UH duplicated its previous inning’s output to go up 6-0.
It was a couple of errors that allowed Carolyn Knight and Haley Faulkner to reach. Alyssa Fair delivered an RBI single as did Bright and Mikki Burke.
Unaka (2-3, 4-12) finally got on the board in the fourth inning to pull within four at 6-2.
Jessie Matheson reached on an error and moved to third on a base hit by Alicia Colbaugh. Madison Weaver brought home one run with an RBI single. Leslie Colbaugh’s sacrifice fly plated the other.
It stayed that way until the sixth when UH added its final run, which later proved to be the game winner.
Mollee Cohee hit her first career home run over the left-field fence, extending the lead to 7-2.
Unaka countered with Autumn Bradshaw’s single and run scored in the bottom half, but still trailed 7-3 heading into the seventh.
The Rangers nearly pulled off the improbable with two outs in their final at-bat, but came up just one run short.
Kassie Winters and Shanda Matheson got things started with singles. Bradshaw drove home both of them with a base hit. She ended up at third after the ball got by the center fielder for a two-base error.
Jessie Matheson kept the inning alive by reaching on an error, which allowed Bradshaw to score — but Faulkner struck out the final batter to preserve the win.
Bradshaw ended the game going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Alicia Colbaugh, Shanda Matheson, Weaver and Winters had the only other hits for the Rangers.
Bright banged out three hits for UH. Fair, Knight, Tanner Horton and Burke provided two apiece.
Faulkner struck out 10 Lady Rangers while picking up the win. Leslie Colbaugh went the distance on the mound for Unaka.
Fair found reasons to be optimistic after the loss.
“The tournament this weekend really helped us, even though we didn’t come away with a win,” added Fair. “We played more like a team over there. If you take away the errors and we hit like we’re capable, it could have been a different outcome today. But I was proud of our kids for fighting back and not allowing them to just have it.”
U. High 033 001 0 — 7 13 3
Unaka 000 201 3 — 6 6 3
Faulkner and Bright. L. Colbaugh and J.Matheson. W—Faulkner. L—Matheson. HR— UH, Cohee.