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U-High pounds Unaka

March 31st, 2014 8:58 pm by Jeff Birchfield

The University High softball team wasted no time taking care of business.

The Lady Bucs got off to a fast start against Unaka and cruised to a 10-0 victory in five innings Monday evening at Indian Trail Middle School.

Junior pitcher Tanner Horton gave up just two hits, and University High scored all 10 runs in the first inning to improve to 11-2 overall and 3-0 in the Watauga Valley Conference.

Lead-off batter Barrett Wherry got things going right away with a blooper to left field. She later added a two-run single, ending the day 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“It meant a lot for us to jump on them early,” Wherry said. “We kind of came into it, thinking we’ve got this, but I’m glad we took care of it early and didn’t have to go seven innings. ”

Unaka fell to 2-4 overall and 2-1 in league play. After a rough first inning which included starter Chelsea Grubb giving up eight hits and the defense committing two errors, the Lady Rangers settled down the rest of the game. Sarah Hardin gave up just two hits and one walk over the next three innings.

“We’re young, starting four freshman,” Unaka coach Dayton Buckles said. “Both of our pitchers are freshmen. We were trying something a little different. The second pitcher we brought in, she’s been our starter, but she’s been nervous at the start of some games. We thought it might help to switch, but we got down too far off the bat.”

Much of it had to do with what was coming off University High’s bats.

Horton hit a double and single in the first inning and ended 2-for-3  with three RBIs.

“It was a good day,” Horton said. “We’ve been working really hard at the beginning of the season, and everything is working out. We’re happy where we are right now.” 

Adding to the big inning, Taylor Treadway belted a two-run double, and Ari Ramsaran came through with a two-run single. Eight players in the Lady Bucs’ starting lineup scored runs in the first inning including Belle Bright, Molle Cohee, Sarah Higginbottom, Lexi Crouthers and Madi Freeman.

“We really hit the ball well that first inning,” UH head coach Keith Jeffers said. “We’ve done a lot of work on making contact with the ball and they were able to accomplish that, at least in the first inning. I don’t know what happened after that.”

The lack of additional runs didn’t matter as the Lady Bucs’ defense took care of the rest. Wherry, playing in center field, made a quick throw to second base to get Unaka’s Shanda Matheson out on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the third inning.

Despite losing the base runner, the Lady Rangers were able to get Jessie Matheson to third base and Lexi Perry to second later in the third inning. However, Horton shut down the scoring threat with a 1-3 ground out.

In one sense, it was simply doing what was expected by a UH program which has reached the state tournament in three of the last four years. So far this season, the Lady Bucs’ only losses have come to Class AAA White County and to Class AA Carter in the championship game of the Gordonsville tournament. 

Jeffers believes another tournament this weekend in Kingsport will reveal to him exactly how far his team has come this season.

“This  weekend in the Eastman (Invitational) is going to determine a lot,” he said. “We’re going to play a lot of tough teams outside this area, as well as Crockett and a couple of other teams. But, I’m pleased with where we’re at right now.” 

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