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Sports High schools

Unicoi stifles Cyclones

March 11th, 2014 10:42 pm by Douglas Fritz

ELIZABETHTON — Sticks. Check. Arms. Check. Defense. Check.

Unicoi County’s baseball team checked into O’Brien Field on Tuesday evening and checked out with an all-phases 6-2 victory over Elizabethton in a Three Rivers Conference contest.

It was the second straight league win to start the season for the Blue Devils while the Cyclones fell to 0-2.

Unicoi got a sharp outing from starting pitcher Will Hubbard, who went 51?3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs, one earned. He walked four and struck out seven to earn the win.

“He has worked really hard and has improved tremendously,” said Unicoi head coach Charlie Baxter. “He’s a hard worker, who always leads the running. He always does what we need him to do, and you appreciate it when guys like that are successful.”

It was an impressive outing for a  guy in the first important varsity outing of his career. But nerves weren’t a factor.

“I was more comfortable than I thought I would be,” said Hubbard. “I felt good at the start.”

Unicoi gave Hubbard a reason to be comfortable, thanks in part to the wildness of Elizabethton starter Dylan Tolley in the top of the first inning. Ethan Rice singled to get things started, and with one out Tolley walked four straight batters to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead.

“We were patient,” said Baxter. “We did a good job of not chasing pitches out of the zone, and it paid off for us. And (Sam) McInturff got a big hit when he got a good pitch.”

With the bases still loaded, McInturff lined a single to right field to plate two more runs. Tolley then pitched out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts.

Rice gave the Cyclones problems throughout the game. He finished 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI.

“He’s such a tremendous athlete,” said Baxter. “He had a lot of good at-bats. He’s trying to catch up from a short amount of practice time.”

The Blue Devils extended their lead to 5-1 in the top of the fourth. Rice singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, raced to third on a groundout, and then scored on Hunter Burnett’s sacrifice fly.

In the fifth inning, McInturff reached on an infield single with one out. Rice eventually drove him home with a sharp single to center field, with two out and two strikes, to make it 6-1.

Elizabethton tried to get a rally started in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a pair of singles, Nick Hurley drove in a run to make it 6-2 with just one out. However, Baxter gave the ball to Austin Green on the mound, and the veteran right-hander knocked off two straight batters with Ks.

After a season full of dynamic rallies in 2013, the Cyclones weren’t able to keep this one going.

“I saw maybe a little spark of it,” said Cyclones’ head coach Joe Nix. “I got a feeling we’re waiting around for somebody else to be that guy.”

After finishing off the seventh with a double play, Green earned the save.

McInturff had a nice day at the plate for the Blue Devils, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

For the Cyclones, Eric Carter and Caleb Armstrong each had two hits.

It was career coaching win No. 1,012 for Charlie Baxter.

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