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Blue Devils defeat East in 9 innings

The equivalent of “Three Rivers” seemed to pour on the Blue Devils and Patriots in conference action on Tuesday, April 14.
The Unicoi County High School baseball withstood a barrage of rain and strikeouts from Sullivan East starter Hunter Stratton to record a 7-4 Three Rivers Conference victory in nine innings to stay in contention for the second-place spot for the upcoming District 1-AA tournament.
The Blue Devils (12-7, TRC 6-3) battled to a 1-1 tie until the top of the ninth when Sam McInturff made a dent in the scoring column, moving UCHS ahead by a run on an RBI single scoring Nick Fender.
Dylan Putman later laced a two-run base hit to give UCHS a 4-1 lead in the top of the ninth until the rain poured on Tim McKamey Field.
After a delay, field work began and the teams were able to complete the contest.
Troy Podvin then added a bases-loaded RBI walk and Fender tacked on a two-run double to give UCHS their final run total.
“Our guys showed a lot of maturity tonight,” said UCHS head coach Chad Gillis. “To stay ready, help with the fieldwork to get the game in. They responded tonight to a good East team. Stratton has thrown well against us, but we were able to hit him there late and capitalized.”
McInturff also helped his team on the mound, recording the win and throwing some of the team’s 14 strikeouts in the triumph.
Blue Devil Cody Jack Rogers also made his team debut after being shelved due to injury. The senior drew a pair of walks in the game.
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The Blue Devils ended last week with a busy stretch of games in the annual Spivey, King and Spivey Tribe Classic hosted by Dobyns-Bennett High School.
UCHS competed in four games over a three-day stretch in Kingsport and Bristol.
Sevier County awaited Gillis’ crew on Thursday, April 16, at J Fred Johnson Stadium and the Blue Devils were able to take the state’s second ranked AAA team down to the wire, but fell, 4-3.
“It was a rough one,” Gillis said. “Take away some plays, and we win it, and that’s what I told our guys. Earlier in the year, they beat us on our home field 13-3 and here we are playing them in a game we should have won. That’s a testament to the amount of improvement our guys have made up to this point.”
Will Hubbard kept the Blue Devils in the game with his pitching, according to Gillis, while Derry came on in relief.
On Friday, April 17, it was back to the winning ways at Hunter Wright Stadium with the Blue Devils knocking off Sullivan Central and Abingdon, 13-2 and 6-1, respectively.
“I’ve preached it all year long, but Friday was about how we responded,” Gillis said. “We were coming off a grueling 4-3 game the night before, but our guys came out with the intensity and the fire to get it done.”
Will Collins recorded his first win of the year, tossing solid work over five innings, Gillis said.
“He threw very well,” Gillis added. “He had around 55 pitches through five innings and let his defense do the rest behind him.”
A strong Abingdon team awaited in game two on Friday, but Putman was able to record the victory.
On Saturday, April 18, the Blue Devils met Greeneville in an underclassmen friendly game and rallied late, but fell, 4-3, in Bristol.
The tournament experience was good for the team, Gillis added, especially for the team pitching.
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The Blue Devils opened the week against Johnson County and Happy Valley after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
UCHS ends the week on Thursday, April 23, in Pigeon Forge and back-to-back games with Madison County, N.C. On Friday, April 24, UCHS hosts Madison County. The Blue Devils will travel across the state line to Madison County on Saturday, April 25.