By Curtis Carden
The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil baseball team withstood a minor burst of rain and used a trio of pitchers and key hits to dispose of District 3-AAA powerhouse Knox Central 6-3 on Saturday, March 19, at Baxter Field.
The Bobcats (2-4) jumped on the Blue Devils (3-1, TRC 1-1) early with a two-run first inning, but a run-scoring hit by UCHS leftfielder Owen Nicholson at the end of second inning, knotted things up, 2-2, after an early Blue Devil score.
Troy Podvin, who is hitting .615 through the first four games of the season, added the extra nail in the coffin in the sixth inning with a two-out, 3-RBI double that cleared the bases and gave UCHS the victory.
Podvin picked up the win in relief after tossing three scoreless innings. Caleb Wilson started and recorded a no decision. Cameron Spires closed out the game for his second save of the season.
Blue Devil shortstop Shaddon Peavyhouse (.438) went 3-for-4 and Podvin and Nick Fender both went yard in a 8-5 nonconference victory over David Crockett Thursday, March 17, in Erwin.
Podvin (2-for-3) rattled off a three-run shot, while Fender tacked on a two-run shot to help propel the Blue Devils to the win column. Gabe Thomas earned the win through five innings of work, while Spires picked up his first save of the season.
Elizabethton used a five-run fifth inning to keep the Blue Devils at bay in the Three Rivers Conference.
UCHS plated a run in the seventh, but it would not be enough as the Cyclones picked up a 6-5 victory Wednesday, March 16, at Baxter Field. The game was pegged as the Blue Devils’ season opener on March 14, but was moved to Wednesday due to inclement weather.
Nicholson (2-for-4) went yard for the Blue Devils with his first home run of the year – a solo blast in the bottom of the first. An RBI single by Podvin gave UCHS the early 2-1 lead.
The Cyclones were led by Michael Robinson’s (2-for-3) 3 RBIs gathered in the contest.
Podvin led the Blue Devils at the plate, going 3-4 with 2 RBIs. Thomas added two hits in the contest. Dylan Putman was charged with the loss in relief; he struck out seven Cyclones during the night.
Hunter Higgins went 3-for-5 at the dish with 4 RBIs and the Blue Devils gave their fans some excitement on opening night at Baxter Field.
UCHS allowed six runs early on, but had the bats cracking at the right time on Monday, March 14, to knock off Sullivan North 17-8.
North rattled Wilson early on with the six-run frame, but the sophomore stuck with it and had the Golden Raiders’ number down the stretch to earn his first win of the season.
“I think it helped that Caleb stuck with it,” Gillis said of his sophomore pitcher. “He was begging me to stay in. He’s going to battle, no matter what situation we put him in. I trust him in that situation and I think the other players built off what Caleb brought to the mound. We’re all proud of him for that.”
Excitement of opening night was also felt early on, with some antsy fielding leading to Blue Devil miscues, which resulted in Golden Raider scores.
“We practice defense … and we’re better than that,” Gillis said. “We’re going to have to clean up the errors if we are wanting to win the big games during the season.”
UCHS sophomores showed their merit in the contest. Podvin entered in relief for Wilson, tossing a pair of strikeouts and kept the Golden Raiders off the board. Offensive production came from Higgins and Nicholson, who was a first-base magnet, going 4-for-5 from the top of the batting order.
“I had to make do with what I had,” Nicholson, a .500 hitter during opening week, said. “Coach (Gillis) always says good things will happen if you put the bat on the ball. We just had to keep hitting like we did in the first and keep putting the runs on the board.”
UCHS opened this week with a home stint against Sullivan South and traveled to Johnson County after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Blue Devils will be at home on Friday, March 25, to square off against North Buncombe, N.C., with first pitch set for 6 p.m.
UCHS caps off the weekend with a trip to Class AAA powerhouse Sevier County on Saturday, March 26, at 3 p.m.