Unaka couldn’t generate any offense and the Lady Rangers were knocked out of the TSSAA Class A state softball tournament with a 3-0 loss to Whitwell on Thursday morning at Starplex Field.
Finishing with a record of 29-14, the Lady Rangers could take solace in getting a state win Tuesday and competing hard in their other two games.
“It has been a great year,” said Unaka head coach Kenneth Chambers. “We will definitely miss our seniors; great bunch of kids. We’re back on track to where we were before. Unaka should be good for years to come.”
Whitwell pitcher Anna Yell had her way with Unaka’s lineup. She was dominant early, not allowing a baserunner until the fourth inning. By game’s end she had a tidy two-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks.
Unaka seemed to be adjusting to Yell late in the game, making better contact. But the Lady Rangers couldn’t get a serious threat going.
“She did a good job keeping the ball inside-outside,” said Chambers. “I thought we did an excellent job fielding and a great job pitching. We just came up a little shy hitting.”
Corie Schuettler gave Unaka a chance. The senior standout went the distance, allowing only two hits and all three runs were unearned.
Whitwell scratched out a run on a foul pop sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second inning. In the third inning, the Lady Tigers loaded the bases on two walks and an error. They scored on an infield grounder to make it 2-0. A wild pitch brought the third run home.
Unaka left fielder Tayla Potter was a defensive star. She robbed a double with an over-the-shoulder falling catch, made a shoestring stab to rob a hit, and made a pair of solid catches on the move.
“All of our outfielders are great, but Tayla does a great job,” said Chambers. “She got better as the year went on. Great player and great athlete.”
Standing up in 2018
Schuettler said Unaka’s performance helped erase last year’s back-to-back double-digit losses.
“Last year we know we didn’t play to the best of our ability, and we kind of gave up,” said Schuettler. “This year we said we were going to keep fighting until the last pitch, and I think that’s what we did. And we played really well against two of the best teams in the state.”
Catcher Katlyn Weaver said Unaka really showed itself in the final two games, even though they lost.
“These last two games we played really tough and played good defense,” said Weaver. “The hits didn’t fall, but we still played hard and still stayed up the entire time. We played as a team and played as a family.”