By Curtis Carden
Defensive struggles ended a busy week for the Unicoi County High School varsity baseball team.
The Blue Devils made a weekend trip to Hamblen County on Saturday, April 2, and were defeated by Morristown East 11-1.
“We gave up three earned runs,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said. “Any time you put yourself in a position like that, you should be in the game, but we didn’t have it defensively. It was just the silly mistakes.”
While the Blue Devils (6-7, 3-3) were hemmed up against the Trojans, they earned some revenge in North Carolina with a 3-2 victory against North Buncombe on Friday, April 1. North Buncombe previously beat UCHS at Baxter Field.
“We beat a good North Buncombe team on Friday,” Gillis said. “Defensively, we played better and had hits when we needed them.”
Sophomore Caleb Wilson continued to be an ace on the mound for UCHS, moving his record to 4-1 on the year in the triumph.
Troy Podvin led UCHS with two hits and an RBI, while Shaddon Peavyhouse and Nick Fender added run-scoring hits.
The Blue Devils approach the upcoming week looking for consistency, Gillis said.
“We’ve got some important games this week,” he added. “We go to Elizabethton and end the week with a couple of nonconference games. We are working with the guys to find their right fit on the field to sure up the errors and we need to find consistency on the mound.”
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A valiant effort came up just short for UCHS during an 8-7 loss to Daniel Boone on Wednesday, March 30, in Gray.
“They never gave up,” Gillis said. “That’s what we’re always telling them. We came off a tough loss last night to Happy Valley, with mental mistakes and some guys out of position. Then you turn around tonight, get down 8-0, and battle and not quit. It could have been easy to take the loss last night and let it defeat us. We’re going to get one of these one run games. We’re going to keep scrapping and playing hard. Offensively, we did great tonight. Defensively, we have to fix some mistakes, but we’ll get there.”
The Blue Devils got down 8-0 heading to the top of the fifth before the bats came alive. Podvin helped his cause on the mound by knocking in a three-run home run and was joined by run-scoring hits from Putman and Higgins to cut the lead within three, 8-5.
UCHS continued to battle into the seventh, with Podvin and Wilson adding an RBI each with two outs, but the Trailblazers would weather the storm for the win.
Podvin picked up the loss. Cameron Spires came on in relief during the sixth inning.
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The error bug bit into the Blue Devils during the trip to Warrior Country on Tuesday, March 29. UCHS held a lead over Happy Valley, but watched it slip away during the Warriors’ 5-4 victory. The win moved Happy Valley’s winning streak to eight games.
The Blue Devils out hit the Warriors nine to six, but saw the game slip through the cracks thanks to three errors. Blue Nation did their damage in the second inning, scoring all four of their runs. Owen Nicholson ripped a bases-clearing 3 RBI double, and was brought home by an RBI single by Peavyhouse.
Putman picked up the loss in a respectable showing, while Clay Simpson entered in relief and closed the door on anymore scoring from the Warriors.
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The Blue Devils opened last week with a 12-2 conference victory over Sullivan East on Monday, March 28, at Baxter Field. Wilson scored his third win of the year in the victory.
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UCHS opened this week with an important Three Rivers contest on the road against Elizabethton on Tuesday, April 5, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
UCHS will return to action on Friday, March 8, against Bourbon, Ky., at Baxter Field at 5:30 p.m. and end the week against Madison County, N.C., on Saturday, March 9, at 4:30 p.m. In Saturday’s game with Madison County, the Blue Devils will honor the 1991 state championship baseball team on their 25th anniversary before the first pitch.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to face Mount Heritage, N.C., on Thursday, April 7, but the contest was moved to May 2 at Mount Heritage.