Ugly duckling Union City sits pretty in finals

Ugly duckling Union City sits pretty in finals
Ugly duckling Union City sits pretty in finals

Union City’s Will Arnold squeezes a dropped third strike for an out during the Twisters’ District 14A Tournament triumph Tuesday.
Union City head coach David Barker summed it up best after his team’s gritty 3-2 triumph over Trenton in the District 14A Tournament.
“I think I heard another coach put it best when he said it doesn’t matter how ugly the girl is as long as you get to the prom,” Barker said after the triumph. “Today, we didn’t do everything well, but we kept the amount of damage they did in check and, as a result, we have gotten to our dance, which happens to be the regional tournament.”
With the victory Tuesday, the Tornadoes (15-14-1) clinch a spot in not only the 14A title game set to be held Thursday at 5 p.m., but also in the upcoming Region 7A Tournament on Monday.
On Thursday, UC will play either Trenton or Humboldt — which play today at 5 in the loser’s bracket finale — with the opposing team needing consecutive wins to derail the locals’ march to a district title and hosting rights in the Region 7A draw.
In Tuesday’s victory, the game was decided in the Twisters’ last at-bat.
To lead that seventh inning off, Colton Speed legged out an infield single. Ben Woods attempted to lay down a sacrifice, but the ball slipped out of the hand of Peabody pitcher Trapper Scott on his throw attempt to first before falling beside the hurler with both UC runners safe as a result.
With Craig Lowrance in the batter’s box, Speed got an enormous jump on Scott and stole third, prompting the Tide to issue an intentional walk to load the bases.
Pinch hitter Rance Barnes went down swinging for the first out, but a wild pitch during the plate appearance of Will Townes bounced just far enough forward off the catcher’s chest protector to allow the fleet-footed Speed to cross the pay station for the winning run.
Scoring the deciding tally made up for a rough start on the mound for Speed, who had surrendered the lead early in Tuesday’s victory with Peabody plating a pair in the first inning on three hits and one error.
Not deterred, Speed — the winning pitcher — buckled down to finish the game with just four total hits allowed, five strikeouts and a lone walk over the complete seven innings.
Union City scord single runs in both the third and fifth innings to set up the dramatic finish.
The third inning tally came thanks in large part to a leadoff double by Taylor Bruff. Bruff was chased home by Woods on a bloop single into shallow rightfield.
In the fifth, Bruff again ignited the flame for the locals. The UC backstop singled with one out and was joined on the bases by Speed, who drew a walk. Bruff was forced out at third on a fielder’s choice with Lowrance then hit by a pitch to load the bags.
Patience paid off for Jacob Worley with a walk forcing Speed across the pay station to tie the game.
“I can’t say enough about Taylor Bruff’s day offensively and defensively,” Barker boasted. “I don’t think he had a passed ball all afternoon and there were numerous breaking pitches where he had to exert extra effort to make a block when we needed a strikeout or ground ball.”
One particular ground ball was the highlight reel play of the game.
With Peabody threatening with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth inning, Speed inducing a ground ball off the bat of Kenneth Simon to Woods that resulted in a textbook 4-6-3 double play that Lowrance relayed to Will Arnold to retire the side.
“That play was a huge jolt in the arm for our defense,” Barker explained. “We had our starting centerfielder at shortstop today and for him to roll up a double play like that, it really got our guys pumped up.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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