By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
With a senior-laden roster that had won both the district and regional championships while matching the school record for most victories in a season, Union City was poised to take the next step to the Class 1A state tournament.
Upstart Scotts Hill, instead, brought to a shocking and immediate conclusion the Tornadoes’ season.
The Lions — who’ve never before had a boys’ sports team reach the state tourney — made history with a 1-0 sectional win over UC Friday night at Elam Stadium.
The stunning loss ended the Twisters’ 2013 campaign with a 27-8 record and the prep playing careers of 10 seniors — many of whom were understandably visibly upset afterward.
So, too, was the team’s coach.
“I’m trying real hard to hold it together right now,” Union City skipper Jeremy Maddox said, after spending several minutes consoling his players. “Any time you’re not able to finish what you’d hoped to do, you’re naturally disappointed. I know only one team is going to be happy at the end of the tournament, but this is really a tough pill to swallow — especially for this group of seniors.
“I’ll hate saying good-bye to them, but I’ll always be able to look back and smile when I think of them because of how hard they worked and what they accomplished otherwise.”
UC, which was seeking its 10th state tournament bid and seventh consecutive win in this postseason, was shut out for the first time all year.
SH righthander Hunter Pope scattered five hits, fanned four and did not walk a batter. Pope retired the final seven Tornado batters in order and kept the locals from getting on the board on each of the three occasions they advanced runners into scoring position.
The Lions, meanwhile, capitalized on one of their two scoring chances against Union City ace Clay Treece, pushing across an unearned run in the third for the game’s only tally — one scored without the benefit of a hit.
Tyler Renfroe walked, stole second with one out, moved to third on a grounder back to Treece, then raced home on a passed ball.
“That one inning, they did what they needed to do to scratch out a run,” Maddox said.
UC, meanwhile, could not come up with a critical two-out hit when a handful of opportunities presented themselves.
Caleb Long (single) and Drew Cooley (hit by pitch) each got aboard in the first, while Long led off with a double and was stranded in the fourth. Christian Cousar and Drake Parker both singled with two outs in the fifth, but were left aboard when Luke Searcy’s hot shot to the SH first baseman was handled for the third out of the inning.
“We hit some balls hard, but the opportunities (to score) we had, all but one came with two outs,” the Union City coach continued. “We’ve come through in those situations most of the time this year, but that’s just baseball and the law of averages.”
Treece — though dominant most the contest — was charged with the pitching loss, his first in 10 decisions in an otherwise spectacular senior campaign. He struck out eight, walked four and allowed just one infield hit, that in the fifth.
For the season, he had a sparkling 0.28 earned run average with 130 strikeouts in 75 innings.
“Clay threw a heckuva game,” Maddox said.
Long and Parker each had two hits for the Tornadoes, which put six runners on base in all with five safeties and a hit batsman.
“I wasn’t disappointed in how we played at all. We had three errors, but I thought the guys picked each other up and none of those mistakes led to runs,” concluded the coach, who completed his fifth season in that role at UCHS. “It wasn’t a case of us not handling the pressure of a situation or anything else of that nature.
“We just lost a close ballgame to a hot team at the wrong time of the year for us.”
The contest was the last in a UCHS jersey for seniors Treece, Parker, Long, Cousar, Searcy, Cooley, Travis Rutland, Joseph Shanks, Eric Moore and Andrew Thayer.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.20.13