After suffering a pair of lopsided losses to District leader Spring Hill earlier in the week, the MCHS Tigers (11-9-1) put some salve on their wounds by defeating county rival Forrest 7-3 in Lewisburg to record their fifth consecutive victory over the Rockets (12-9).
Although both teams finished with eight hits apiece, Forrest struggled mightily in the field and committed five errors in the contest, which led to six of the Tigers' seven runs.
"We didn't necessarily play too well, but we got the win. Forrest's got a scrappy ball club. It always means a little more to win this game. You never want to lose to your county rival," said MCHS coach Joe George
Leadoff hitter Jack Whaley sparked the Marshall County offense, going 3-3 with a walk, two stolen bases, and three runs scored. Hunter Clark and Morgan Reese each tallied a pair of hits for the Tigers as well with Clark driving in a run, while Andrew Thornhill added a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored.
The Rockets, meanwhile, saw the top of their order give Marshall County fits, but got almost no production from the rest of their lineup and saw their last six hitters go a combined 1-19 with seven strikeouts. As a result Forrest stranded nine runners on the base paths, including five in scoring position.
"I think they had only one earned run and we left a lot of runners in scoring position," said FHS coach Babe Hardison. "Usually my four and five hitters have been pretty reliable, but they struggled today. We also had trouble in the infield. We made some nice plays, but didn't make the routine ones. This is probably the worst defensive game we played this year."
Shortstop Colin Henson went 3-4 with two triples and three runs scored to lead the Rockets at the plate, while Kyle Griffy and Seth Brothers each notched a pair of hits with Griffy driving in two runs. Jacob Floyd also had a hit and a RBI for Forrest.
On the mound, MCHS freshman starting pitcher Cody Vernon picked up the victory, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks over four plus innings.
Reliever Koda Watkins kept the Rockets at bay over the final three frames by yielding only one run on two hits and a walk during that span while compiling six strikeouts.
FHS freshman pitcher Zach Brewer, meanwhile, suffered the loss and gave up seven runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings of work to go along with four strikeouts.
Forrest fired the opening salvo in the top of the first inning when Henson scored on a RBI single to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead after belting a triple into the right center field gap.
Brewer then snuffed out a MCHS threat in the bottom of the first, but things began to go awry for Forrest in the second, as the Tigers pushed across four runs in the frame with the help of two Rocket errors, two walks, and two hit batsmen to pull ahead 4-1.
Following a one-out walk by Matthew Cashion, Brandon Bush hit into a fielder's choice before Reese singled. Brewer appeared he would get out of the inning unscathed after inducing an infield popup by Kenston Ezell, but FHS first baseman Leland Brothers dropped the ball and courtesy runner Cory Duvall scored easily to tie the game at 1-1. After Whaley drew a walk to load the bases, Reese came home when Harwell was hit by a pitch to put Marshall County up 2-1. Henson then misplayed a groundball by Watkins, which allowed Ezell to score the third run of the inning, before Brewer plunked Thornhill with a pitch to force home Whaley.
Forrest narrowed the gap to 4-2 in the third when Henson smacked a triple into the left center field gap and scored on a RBI single by Griffy, but the Tigers tallied another unearned run in the fourth thanks to two Rocket errors and a Thornhill sacrifice fly to stretch their lead to 5-2.
In the fifth, Forrest had a chance to cut into the deficit after Griffy reached on an error and Brothers singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. Watkins, however, relieved Vernon and fanned the next two Rocket batters before retiring Brewer on a groundout to quell the FHS uprising.
Marshall County then tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth with the aid of yet another Forrest error and a Clark RBI double to open up a 7-2 cushion.
The Rockets trimmed the deficit to 7-3 in the top of the seventh on a RBI single by Floyd and had runners on first and third with two outs, but Watkins struck out Brewer to slam the door on FHS' comeback hopes.