Austin Green pitched a complete game, and tournament most valuable player Ryan Lingerfelt drove in a pair of runs as the Blue Devils defeated Sullivan South 8-3 in the championship game Wednesday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
Improving to 26-7, the Blue Devils powered through the tournament without a loss and earned home-field advantage for Monday’s region semifinal contest against Grainger.
“I think we played solid throughout the tournament,” said Blue Devils’ head coach Charlie Baxter. “Like it was said before the tournament, we had the pitching depth and that showed. The pitchers did a good job, and we got timely hits.”
Sullivan South (22-10) will travel to take on District 2-AA champion Greeneville.
Unicoi jumped on the Rebels quickly, getting a first-inning RBI infield single from Connor Simpson and another run on a South throwing error. But the Rebels responded with a two spot in the bottom of the inning thanks to a wild pitch and Russell Koesters’ sacrifice fly.
Things swung in Unicoi’s favor in the fourth inning as the Blue Devils plated four runs — all of them coming with two outs. Ethan Rice got it started with a hit by pitch and a stolen base. Lingerfelt drove in Rice with a single.
Sam McInturff plated a run with a double, and South nearly tagged out Lingerfelt as he rounded third base a bit too far. But the umpire ruled him safe. A two-run double by Will Hubbard made it 6-2.
That big inning was all Green needed. He allowed eight hits and three runs, two earned, while walking two and striking out six.
“After that first inning, the guys said they had my back and that’s all I needed,” said Green.
The senior right-hander said a regular season loss to the Rebels helped him mentally for this game.
“That was a little motivation, especially after they hit me around the field,” said Green. “I was glad to get a win this time.”
The Blue Devils stretched their advantage in the fourth inning on Lingerfelt’s two-out RBI single. Unicoi made it 8-2 on a double steal by Lingerfelt and Green.
Unicoi didn’t have trouble with South starter Sam Richmond, a lefty making his first appearance against the Blue Devils.
“We try to take the same approach every time, no matter who is on the mound,” said Lingerfelt. “We try to hit up the middle, focus on line drives, and make sure we get our pitch to hit.”
Lingerfelt was the only Unicoi player with two hits. Rice scored three runs.
If there was an area the Blue Devils could have performed better in the tournament, it was hitting, said Baxter.
“I would have liked for us to hit it a little better, and swing the bats better,” he said.
For South, Chase Fields had three hits and Caleb Krutak had two.
“Unicoi has a good ballclub,” said South head coach Anthony Richardson. “We had our chances against Green, but he got better as the game went on.”
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