By Tim Chambers
Just like a cookie, Happy Valley crumbled when bitten near the end.
Unicoi County broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a pair or runs that led to their 4-1 victory at Cannon- Gouge Park.
It was a game that was there for the taking. Unfortunately the Tribe couldn’t get the key hit when they had to.
“Any win right now would be a big one — especially if we could have pulled this one out today,” said Happy Valley head coach Caleb Moore. “Unfortunately winning is habit and losing can be, too. Our kids have got to decide when they’re tired of losing. The difference was that they came up in key situation and got the key hits and we didn’t. You’ve got to want to be that guy in key situations. If you’re afraid to make to make an out and not be aggressive, then you’re in the wrong game.”
Happy Valley scored its lone run in the third to go up 1-0. Justin Reagan led off with an infield single and later scored when Justin Maupin reached on a throwing error.
The Blue Devils battled back to tie the game in the fourth.
Ryan Lingerfelt ripped a double in the gap, then scampered home on a fielder’s choice.
Happy Valley (1-4, 1-6) got an outstanding pitching effort from Justin Norris, who went the distance. He allowed only two hits over five innings before giving up a pair of runs in the sixth.
A leadoff walk to Timmy Graham would result in a run after Ethan Rice’s double just eluded the glove of a diving Phillip Garland. Austin Garrabrant’s single made it 3-1.
The Warriors loaded the bases in the bottom half with only one out, but couldn’t score. Rice had pitched up to that point, but Coach Charlie Baxter brought in lefty Jonathan Davis to close the door. He proceeded to strike out the next two batters leaving the bases juiced.
Unicoi (2-3, 3-3) added an insurance run in the seventh inning. Hunter Burnett ripped a pinch hit double then scored on Lingerfelt’s single.
Norris allowed only six hits in seven inning of work. Rice recorded the win with Davis earning the save.
Reagan, Maupin and Garland had the only hits in the game for Happy Valley.
Lingerfelt’s 2-for-4 performance and Burnett’s 1-for-1 were tops for the Blue Devils.
Moore knows his team is young, but refuses to use that as an excuse despite playing five and six freshmen.
“They’ve played in games — they’re no longer freshmen,” he said. “I see a lot of good things we’re doing but we’ve got to hit the ball better. Justin pitched a great game. He mixed his pitches up well and kept them off balance. We had the same opportunities that they did. They came up with the keys plays and we didn’t.”
Unicoi Co. 000 102 1 — 4 6 3
Happy Valley 001 000 0 — 1 3 2
Rice, Davis (6) and Graham. Norris and Street. W—Rice. L—Norris. Sv—Davis.