Unicoi earns Three Rivers baseball title

Douglas Fritz • Updated Apr 25, 2018 at 10:38 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Unicoi County missed its chance to grab the Three Rivers Conference baseball title Monday.

The Blue Devils didn’t miss their second chance.

Getting an overpowering performance on the mound from Clay Simpson, the Blue Devils handled Elizabethton 5-1 on Wednesday night to earn the regular season championship.

Unicoi finished 10-2 in league play, outdistancing Sullivan East (9-3) and Elizabethton (8-4).

“I couldn’t ask for anything more than the way they responded,” said Unicoi head coach Chad Gillis, whose team lost at home against the Cyclones on Monday. “I called them back into the fieldhouse when we found out East also lost Monday and told them we had another opportunity to achieve one of our goals of winning the conference. They came out today and played hard, and Clay had a great outing.”

Fastball, curveball

Simpson basically used two pitches in the complete-game performance, racking up 12 strikeouts. He allowed only two hits, a first-inning triple by Ryan Wetzel and a seventh-inning double by Evan Perkins.

“He was straight fastball-curveball today,” said Gillis. “He spotted it up, and it led him to the win.”

Simpson, who also had two hits at the plate, said location was a key.

“I was locating my curveball really well at the start of the game,” said Simpson. “In the sixth and seventh innings, I wasn’t throwing it for strikes as much, but it was still effective.”

Big hitter

Caleb Wilson had an RBI single in the third inning to give Unicoi a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish. He singled and scored in the fifth inning, and doubled in a run in the sixth.

Wilson was the losing pitcher Monday, but he atoned for it at the plate this time around.

“Monday (the Cyclones) hit me around pretty good,” said Wilson. “I hate to say it. But we bounced back well. We just relaxed and played our game.”

Other side of the mound

Evan Carter pitched well in a losing cause for the Cyclones. He worked five innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, but only one was earned. Carter walked one and nearly matched Simpson with 11 strikeouts.

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