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Unicoi County extends tournament with win over Longhorns

Having given Unicoi County their first defeat in the double elimination District 1 AA Tournament at Milligan College, the Johnson County Longhorns set out to deliver another and lay claim to the championship. Unfortunately despite a strong battle that demonstrated Johnson County’s resolve, the Longhorns could not overcome a devastating five run Blue Devil sweep in the third inning.
Having rested up after an amazing weekend that featured a win over both Unicoi and Elizabethton, Johnson County’s Ryan Mahala geared up to take the mound once again. However, it became quickly apparent that Mahala was not throwing his best game. Having felt sick earlier in the day, Johnson County’s top ranked pitcher was quickly falling behind. Even with these issues, Mahala played through three innings, striking out four batters but also walking three.
Unicoi was quick to take advantage of any weakness, pushing a walk in the first inning to second off a base hit. That attempt was put down thanks to a catch by Dusty Stout to bring in the third out, but things continued to go down hill in the second, with the Blue Devils securing their first complete run. Undaunted, the team was still hopeful of putting up a couple of runs to take the lead, when disaster struck in the third.
Starting with a walk, followed by two consecutive base hits and another walk, Unicoi pushed their second runner home and loaded the bases. Mahala struck out the next two batters and landed the first strike on the one following. Then, to every Longhorn fan’s dismay, Unicoi’s batter landed a huge hit, making it to third base and picking up three RBIs. Emboldened by such a big gain, Unicoi pressed on with two more hits and one more run, bringing the total for the third inning to five.
Fearing further slips, Coach Pete Pavusek made the decision to take Mahala off the mound and put in Andy Woods. “Ryan deserves to have an off game”, said Pavusek. “He’s pitched great all season long. It was just one of those things. It just didn’t happen tonight. No fault, no blame, I just don’t think he had his best stuff tonight. Woods did well coming off the bench and gave us a chance to score some runs and kept us in it. He did a good job.”
To everyone’s surprise, Woods was able to help the Longhorns regain some composure, and managed to keep the Blue Devils off the score board for the next two innings, along with help from Dusty Stout and Jacob Henson in the outfield as well as Harley Reece and Daniel Helm on third and first.
At the same time, the Longhorns came alive offensively, landing the first of their ten total base hits for the game. One of those, a double by Mahala in the sixth inning, brought in one of the first Johnson County runs for the game. Chad Hodgkiss, was the very first to make progress, taking base off a walk and then taking advantage of some Unicoi defensive errors to put Johnson County on the board. River Cazire also made a good attempt, taking first on an error, stealing second, and then taking third of a hit by Judd Hammons. Cazire seemed poised to put up another run but was caught out on his way home.
Harley Reece made his run thanks to an advancement off of Mahala’s double, and the Longhorns seemed determined to put up as strong a sweep in the sixth inning as the Blue Devils had in the third. Following Reece and Mahala, Andy Woods took base off a walk, and advanced to second with a hit by Ryan Smith. Woods progressed to third on defensive errors, while Smith took second, but both were prevented from gaining runs thanks to consecutive outs near the plate.
Pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk for the rest of the story.