By Keeli Parkey
Following a tough run in an out-of-state tournament, the Unicoi County High School baseball team bounced back with a Three Rivers Conference victory.
Playing on the road in Mountain City on Monday, April 17, the Blue Devils (14-9, 7-2) hammered the Johnson County Longhorns 17-1.
“Tonight was a big game for us,” head coach Chad Gillis told The Erwin Record. “With conference winding down and coming off a tough week at the beach, we needed a big win.”
Clay Simpson earned the win for UCHS on the mound, improving his season record to 5-1. In five innings of work, Simpson gave up only three hits and struck out seven batters; he also went 3-for-4 at the plate with 3 RBIs.
“Clay pitched great tonight,” Gillis said. “ Johnson County couldn’t get anything going against him.”
After struggling at times earlier last week the Blue Devil defense stepped up against Johnson County, according to their head coach.
“Our defense played an errorless game and that always makes it easier on pitchers,” Gillis said. “We hit the ball all night. We hit several long balls that stayed in the park, but cleared the bases. Shaddon (Peavyhouse) came up in the fourth inning and hit a grand slam to seal the deal.”
The grand slam was the second home run of the season for Peavyhouse, who went 2-for-3 on Monday with 4 RBIs. Nick Fender was 2-for-4, including a triple, with 3 RBIs. Caleb Wilson was 2-for-3.
Tough competition awaited the Unicoi County High School baseball team in South Carolina last week. The Blue Devils went 1-4 during the Mingo Bay Classic played in Myrtle Beach.
“The week at Myrtle Beach was really good for us,” Gillis said. “We faced good pitching every game and solid hitters in every line up. We did some things well and others we did not. We hit the ball well, except one game. Our defensive struggles continue, but we are working through them one game at a time. I am excited to come back home and finish the season with the knowledge we gained by playing in the Mingo Bay Classic”
The Blue Devils opened the tournament on Monday, April 10, with a 4-3 loss to a “solid” team from Kempsville, according to Gillis.
“We faced a pitcher that really challenged us at the plate,” Gillis added. “We made a couple defensive mistakes that allowed runners to move around. We also had some calls that were questionable to say the least. None of our guys made any excuses throughout the game, they just kept pushing.”
Kempsville scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 4-1 lead.
“We got two of the runs back on a double by Shaddon,” Gillis said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win. We had the tying run on second with one out in the bottom of the inning. Again, they never quit and they played with a lot of enthusiasm and effort. We didn’t win, but we learned some lessons and improved as a team.”
Wilson pitched 7 innings for the Blue Devils against Kempsville, allowing 7 hits and throwing 5 strikeouts.
Peavyhouse was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Cameron Spires was 3-for-3.
Defensive miscues cost the Blue Devils against St. Albans on Tuesday, April 11.
“Defensively, we had three errors and gave up nine unearned runs,” Gillis said. “We had some guys hitting the ball, but we couldn’t stop them on defense. We have to be able to make plays to win ball games.”
St. Albans defeated UCHS 14-3.
Simpson (4-1) took the loss for UCHS. Owen Nicholson went 3-for-4 at the plate. Wilson was 3-for-3 and Peavyhouse was 2-for-3.
UCHS lost to South Lakes 11-8 on Wednesday, April 12. It was the first loss on the mound for Troy Podvin (2-1).
Fender and Peavyhouse (2 RBIs) each went 2-for-4 against South Lakes. Dylan Putman (2 RBIs) and Spires (2 RBIs) each went 2-for-3.
The Blue Devils only win of the tournament came on Thursday, April 13, when they beat Pendleton High School 5-4.
“Pendleton was a great team,” Gillis said. “Peavyhouse gave a chance on the mound and our hitters came through big in the late innings. We fought hard and handled what we could control.”
With his team trailing going into the seventh inning, Putman hit an RBI to tie the game. Podvin then knocked in two go-ahead runs to seal the win.
Putman was 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Podvin was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Fender and Peavyhouse both were 2-for-4 in the victory.
The tournament ended for the Blue Devils with an 11-0 loss to Austintown-Finch on April 14.
“We did not play well Friday in the bracket championship,” Gillis said. “We started off the game with two errors and gave up four runs.”
The Blue Devils were scheduled to host Sullivan East on Tuesday, April 18, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
“Tomorrow we will face Sullivan East in a battle for first place in the conference,” Gillis said on Monday.
They will play in the Tribe Classic hosted by Dobyns-Bennett latter this week. They will open the tournament on Thursday, April 20, at 4:15 p.m. against the host team at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport. UCHS will then face Greeneville at 7 p.m. at the same location. Tournament play continues on Friday, April 21, against Tennessee High at Tennessee High at 4:30 p.m. The Blue Devils will close the tournament on Saturday, April 22, at 10:30 a.m. against Morristown East at Daniel Boone.
The Blue Devils will play at Happy Valley on Monday, April 24, at 5:30 p.m.