By Keeli Parkey

In order to win another District 1-AA championship the Blue Devils will have to do what they did last season – battle their way out of the loser’s bracket.

The Unicoi County High School baseball team (18-14) went into the tournament as the top seed, but found themselves on the losing end of a 7-0 contest against the fourth-seeded Sullivan South Rebels on Monday, May 8, at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport.

“Having only three hits definitely didn’t give us a chance,” head coach Chad Gillis told The Erwin Record. “South’s pitcher, Trey Fields, deserves a lot of credit though. He had a dominating day on the mound. There were zero adjustments made at the plate for seven innings, it’s hard to win games against a great pitcher without making adjustments.”

Having won the district coming out of the loser’s bracket last season gives UCHS the experience they need to battle for another crown.

“We are not losing confidence,” Gillis said. “We were in the exact same position last year and won the whole thing. We have top guys going on the mound and we will figure some things out at the plate. We are looking forward to getting this loss behind us and earning a regional bid this week.”

Nick Fender, Shaddon Peavyhouse and Cameron Spires had 1 hit each for UCHS in Monday’s loss. Caleb Wilson took the loss on the mound.

The Blue Devils will play their next district game on Wednesday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. Their opponent was decided by games played on Tuesday, May 9, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

A loss on Wednesday will end the season for UCHS. A win will set up a game at 5 p.m. on Thursday. In order to qualify for the region tournament and keep their season alive, the Blue Devils must win on Wednesday and win on Thursday. Winning both those games will put UCHS in the 7:30 p.m. championship game on Thursday. Because they came out of the loser’s bracket, they will have to win the 7:30 p.m. Thursday game and the if necessary 6 p.m. game on Friday, May 12, to win the district.

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The Blue Devils wrapped up the regular season last week with wins over Pigeon Forge and David Crockett and a loss to Sullivan North in the conference finale.

UCHS went on the road and defeated Pigeon Forge 6-4 on Monday, May 1.

“This was a statement game for us,” Gillis said. “We needed to win this game to prove we can play with and be a great team. Caleb Wilson had a fantastic game. He found his groove and pitched like he is capable of. Dylan Putman and Nick Fender had big nights at the plate having five of our six RBIs between the two. Our defense stepped up and made plays the entire game and we executed our offense perfectly.”

Wilson earned the win on the mound for UCHS. Fender went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Putman was 2-for-3, including a home run, and 4 RBIs.

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On Tuesday, May 2, Sullivan North bested the Blue Devils 6-5 in their final conference game of the 2017 season.

“This was a tough loss coming after a big win the previous day,” Gillis said. “We didn’t come to the field mentally prepared to play.  We hit the ball well, but made enough mistakes in the field to keep them in it. It was just their day.”

Troy Podvin was 2-for-4 at the plate, including a home run. Wilson was 3-for-3 with a home run. Laughren was 3-for-4.

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The Blue Devils ended the regular season with a 5-2 victory over David Crockett on Wednesday, May 3.

“We ended the regular season with a win and it sends us into the tournament on a high note,” Gillis said. “The kids responded well with a win and focus was there. We executed some offensive plays we haven’t put in a game yet and they worked perfectly. This was a good win for us and another great game out of Clay Simpson. This was his first start in a week and a half.  He picked up right where he left off.”

Simpson gave up 2 hits, 2 runs and tossed 5 strikeouts in the win. He also went 1-for-3 at the plate.

Owen Nicholson was 2-for-4 at the plate. Fender went 1-for-2 and Podvin went 4-for-4.