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Blue Devils stay alive, eliminate Happy Valley

Douglas Fritz • May 6, 2019 at 10:22 PM

Unicoi County is still alive, but a tough road to the region awaits.

The Blue Devils defeated Happy Valley 8-1 in the losers’ bracket of the District 1-AA baseball tournament Monday night at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

Improving to 12-18, the Blue Devils moved into the losers’ bracket semifinals, where they will play Sullivan East on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Unicoi head coach Chad Gillis said he believes his team is capable of reaching the region.

“We’ve worked three games without using Peyton Whitson or Kaleb Metcalf,” said Gillis. “We will bring one of them (Tuesday). We’ve just got to play defense behind them and score some runs.”

In Tuesday’s winners’ bracket final at 5 p.m., Elizabethton plays Sullivan South. The loser of that game will play the Unicoi-East winner on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

The loss was a season-ender for the Warriors (8-18). They had earned their shot at Unicoi with a 5-2 victory over Johnson County in Monday’s first game.

MOUND PRESENCE

Ramon Avila went the distance, allowing six hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

“Ramon threw a great game,” said Gillis. “I had a lot of confidence in him based on the innings he had thrown against Happy Valley.”

Avila said he used three pitches to get the win.

“My curveball, change and fastball were working,” he said. “I was mixing it up. I was pretty confident. I couldn’t let my seniors down.”

GETTING IT DONE

The Blue Devils didn’t collect a lot of hits, getting just five. But they sure took advantage of what they had.

Included in the mix was a three-run triple by Payton Whitson that turned into a three-run single when he was ruled out for missing first base.

“I will take an out at first base for three RBIs any day,” said Gillis. “We’re not going to teach it, but those three RBIs were huge.”

Whitson’s hit made it 8-1 and ended any doubt.

OTHER BIG HITS

Garrett Manuel had an RBI double in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1.

Brett Strother had an RBI grounder to break the tie in the third inning. Manuel then drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-1.

Strother had an RBI triple in the fifth inning.

FOR THE WARRIORS

Jacob Absher and Dylan Willis each had two hits for Happy Valley at the top of the lineup, but the Warriors couldn’t spark a big rally.

Zac Workman’s first-inning sacrifice fly gave the Warriors their only run.

Happy Valley 5

Johnson County 2

As it turned out, the Warriors’ three-run first inning was all they needed.

Happy Valley took advantage of its opportunities in that frame, scoring on a single, a grounder, and a wild pitch.

Michael Harrah made it work on the mound with a terrific outing. He went the distance, allowing four hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.

Bart Wilson led the Warriors at the plate, totaling three hits. Jacob Absher added two hits.

Ethan Icenhour and Reise Stout each drove in a run for Johnson County, which finished the season with a record of 12-10.

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