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Tournament readies Devils for district

By Curtis Carden

With a postseason tuneup behind them, the Unicoi County High School baseball team is waiting to see where the dominos fall for tournament positioning.

The Blue Devils wrapped up last week with a stint in the annual Tribe Classic on Saturday, April 23, as they continued preparing for next week’s District 1-AA tournament in Kingsport. The Blue Devils (11-14, 8-3) dropped four games during the three-day round robin event, including a 12-5 loss to Tennessee High on Saturday and a 6-3 loss that morning to another Class AAA foe, Science Hill, at Cardinal Park in Johnson City.

“We’ve played some good competition in this tournament,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said Saturday. “Friday, we had Karns get switched with Dobyns-Bennett, who we were supposed to play, and they were a solid hitting team. Gabe (Thomas) came out and threw a solid game for us and it was big for our pitchers to see that.”

During the Blue Devils’ contest with Tennessee High, Thomas led the Blue Devils at the plate (2-for-3) with 2 RBIs. Left fielder Owen Nicholson also drove in a pair of runs.

In the first game of the Blue Devils’ weekend double header, the squad jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, thanks to a triple from shortstop Shaddon Peavyhouse. Pitcher Dylan Putman rocked a double to give his squad an early lead before Science Hill came back into the contest, 2-1, heading to the fourth. Blue Devil Troy Podvin gave his team another crack at the lead with a two-run double, but Science Hill banked on timely baserunning and three Blue Devil miscues to record the victory.

Even in the loss, UCHS had a solid outing from Putman on the mound. The performance proved to be important with the postseason coming down the pipeline.

“He did great,” Gillis said of the junior pitcher. “He’s not had a game yet this year where he went out there and had command of his pitches. The location was good all day, today. I needed to see that from him, especially with the tournament coming up in a couple of weeks. He’s done well all season, but today was a big test for him against a team like Science Hill. I’m proud of him.”

UCHS ended the Tribe Classic with losses to Karns (8-1) and Abingdon, Va., (6-3).

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It was another shining performance for Wilson on the hump.

The sophomore recorded his seventh win of the year, while Putman went yard for his first home run of the year in the Blue Devils’ 6-1 victory over Sullivan East on Tuesday, April 19, in Bluff City.

It was a solid performance from Wilson, according to Gillis, as the Blue Devils were able to build off momentum from Monday’s blowout victory.

“It was a great team win,” Wilson said. “The guys really backed me up and I was confident pitching.”

• • •

The Blue Devils opened up the week in a big way with a 20-4 conference victory over Johnson County on Monday, April 18, at Baxter Field.

Justin Laughren had three hits and brought the mean stick with grand slam, while Nicholson went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs to pace the Blue Devils’ hitting. Thomas tacked on a 3-for-3 effort while Fender added two hits. Both hits also drove in three runs. Cameron Spires also added two hits in the triumph.

Putman scored the win on the mound with five strikeouts while giving up six hits.

• • •

The Blue Devils carried on the momentum into the upcoming week, while fate will decide where they will finish in the Three Rivers Conference.

UCHS opened this week with a game against Happy Valley on Monday, April 25. The Blue Devils needed to do their part and get a victory and see where Elizabethton and Sullivan South round out the schedule to find out where they will finish. Prior to The Erwin Record’s press deadline, UCHS had an 8-3 mark inside the Three Rivers Conference, while the Cyclones and Rebels were both 8-2 with two more league games to go.

The Blue Devils add road trips to David Crockett on Wednesday, April 27, at 5:30 p.m. and Cherokee on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m. before ending the week at home against Greeneville on Saturday, April 30. Game time is scheduled for noon.