By Curtis Carden
A pair of nonconference bouts concluded last week for the Unicoi County High school varsity baseball team.
The Blue Devils battled on the road in Sevierville and pushed the Class AAA powerhouse Sevier County Smokey Bears to the limit, but were defeated 8-7 in walk-off fashion on Saturday, March 26.
With four games on last week’s docket, the Blue Devils entered this week with a .500 record of 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Three Rivers Conference .
“We did great all the way around,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said of Saturday’s game. “We did everything we could to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Holding on to the lead in the seventh, Sevier County was able to get the right hits at the right time to pull away with the victory in exciting fashion.
“Our guys were disappointed,” Gillis said, “but it’s like what I told them, they showed they can hang with just about anybody. They’re a very talented bunch and we just have to get rolling at the right time.”
Clay Simpson showed his merit on the hill, tossing three innings of work with two strikeouts and allowed two runs while allowing no hits. Caleb Wilson, Shaddon Peavyhouse and Troy Podvin also saw time on the mound.
Catcher Hunter Higgins led the Blue Devils with a 2-for-3 performance with 3 RBIs, while Simpson went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Dylan Putman also had a multi-hit night, going 2-for-4.
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UCHS welcomed North Buncombe to Baxter Field and the North Carolina squad scored the away victory in shutout fashion, 8-0, on Friday, March 25.
“They threw a sophomore who is just as good as anyone in our conference,” Gillis said. “In a way, it was a blessing in disguise for the guys to get one like that against us. The games with North Buncombe and Sevier County were important, but our biggest games are next week with Sullivan East and Happy Valley.”
The Blue Devils got back in the win column on Tuesday, March 22, with a 10-3 victory on the road against Johnson County where Wilson went the distance on the mound.
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UCHS opened the week on Monday, March 21, with a home contest against Sullivan South. The Blue Devils were able to get their rally caps on late, but fell 8-6 in front of a packed house at Baxter Field.
Trailing 8-3 heading to the sixth, the Blue Devils got things going with a sacrifice-RBI by Peavyhouse and an RBI by Putman to cut things within three, 8-5. Putman drove in another run in the seventh, but South relief pitcher Landon Armstrong was able to retire the last two outs of the inning off strikeouts to earn the victory.
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UCHS opened this week with a pair of conference games against Sullivan East and Happy Valley after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Blue Devils are scheduled to continue road stretch this week, featuring six straight away games. The first is a trip to Daniel Boone on Thursday, March 31 at 6 p.m. The Devils will follow that with a trip to North Carolina in a rematch with North Bumcombe on Friday, April 1, at 6 p.m. The Blue Devils are scheduled to end the week with another nonconference game on Saturday, April 2, at Morristown-East. First pitch for the weekend game is set for 1 p.m.