It wouldn’t be spring in the Valley Beautiful without Blue Nation vying for Spring Fling tickets.
Next week begins the gauntlet for Unicoi County High School athletes with track and field, baseball and softball going through the final leg of the postseason.
Can’t wait until Wednesday’s edition of The Erwin Record? Let’s take a look at what awaits the Blue Devils’ this season.
REGION 1-AA Baseball
Unicoi County vs. Grainger – (Monday, May 11) 7 p.m. at Baxter Field
The Blue Devils (21-10) enter the regional tournament on a hot streak, winning five straight, including two victories over Three Rivers Conference champion Sullivan South in the District 1-AA tournament held at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
Monday’s contest against Grainger provides a bit a deja vu for Blue Nation faithful after the team met in the 2014 season – the Blue Devils won that contest 2-0 behind the arm of then-freshman Brandon Garland.
UCHS enters the contest almost an entirely new team from 2014. Garland on the shelf, six seniors gone from last season and a first year head coach in Chad Gillis — but the tradition has kept on.
An even mix of veterans and youth propelled the Blue Devils to their third consecutive district championship – led behind senior hurler Sam McInturff, District 1-AA tournament MVP.
McInturff, Will Hubbard and Nathan Derry are the trio with a vast amount of experience under their belts but they’ve taken the leadership role up with precision while first year consistent starters have made their mark with the program.
Will Collins, Dylan Putman, Justin Laughren – all have provided key moments at first. Derry and shortstop Shaddon Peavyhouse have kept the traditionally-strong middle infield rolling while Gabe Thomas has provided consistency at third base. Hunter Higgins also took over catching duties in his freshman campaign and has been another steady piece to the recent success puzzle put together by Gillis and Co.
You toss in sophomore Nick Fender, the freshmen group of Owen Nicholson, Caleb Wilson and Troy Podvin, along with a productive bullpen – the Blue Devils and Grizzlies contest expects to bring the same excitement as years prior.
Grainger enters the contest after finishing first in the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference. The Grizzlies lost in the District 2-AA championship in a DH with Greeneville.
The winner of the contest will advance to Wednesday’s game against the winner of Greeneville and Sullivan South. A loss in the semifinals ends the year for any team.
REGION 1-AA Softball
Unicoi County vs Grainger – (Monday, May 11) 5 p.m. at Lady Devil Diamond
Unicoi County and Grainger must like each other in the regional semifinals?
The Lady Blue Devils and Lady Grizzlies are in the same boat as the guy counterparts, with the ladies seeing each other during last year’s regional tournament. UCHS took that contest 17-2.
Racking up the accomplishments of UCHS (42-3) this season could take up a two-page section of a newspaper, so for the sake of not keeping this going all-day, we’re going with the old-fashion bullet points.
- Seventh in the nation with team home runs (53); Second in Tennessee, behind … the 2013 UCHS team
- Wednesday’s district championship was the team’s 20th in the past 21 years and fifth consecutive title
- Completed the quadruple crown of regular season tournaments with championships in the East Tennessee Classic, Eastman Invitational, NFS Classic and Tiny Day Red Edmonds Classic
- 40-plus wins; a first since 2012
Grainger will be in upset mode come Monday, after holding off elimination in an upset against No. 2 Chuckey-Doak down in the District 2-AA tournament.
A win Monday could set the stage for Round 3 of Unicoi County/Greeneville in the Region 1-AA championship. The Lady Green Devils host Happy Valley Monday.
Talk about a first year splash.
First year head coach Megan Davis and the UCHS track and field teams have seen success the entire season and will look to keep things rolling on Thursday, May 14, in the TSSAA Sectional meet at CAK.
Top finishers in the event will qualify for the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
UCHS is led by sophomore Lady Blue Devil Stephanie Wisse who hauled in two first place finishes in this week’s sub-sectional meet in Greeneville in the 100- and 200-meter runs. Senior CJ Wells also made a return after a calf injury to finish third in the 110 hurdles.
Other athletes qualifying for Thursday include: Megan Todd and the Lady Blue Devil 4×400, 4×800 relay teams
Cameron Higgins and Laura Rogers also earned at-large bids for the event.
High school football fans saw their Blue Devils in action on Friday scrimmage at Blountville Middle School against Sullivan Central. Eli Gillis scored a pair of touchdowns in his return from injury. UCHS ends the spring season with a spring scrimmage against Cloudland on May 14 at 6 p.m.
The Blue Devils enter into 2015 with coaching stability with head coach Glenn White at the helm. White served the remainder of last season after Robert McElwee exited the program.
A busy week awaits, but you can stay in the loop by following The Erwin Record Sports Department online.
Be sure to check out the 5/13 issue of The Erwin Record for a full recap of events, including full summaries of Monday’s busy stretch of diamond dandies.
Curtis Carden is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning journalist and photographer with The Erwin Record. For questions or information, email email@example.com