Forrest finishes fifth, exceeds expectations
The Forrest Lady Rockets finished the first decade of the 21st Century with a fifth place finish at the Blue Cross Spring Fling after a 3-0 loss to Trinity Christian Academy on Thursday in a loser's bracket game.
TCA's Ellen Renfroe struck out ten Forrest hitters and held the Lady Rockets to one lone hit in the ballgame, an Adrean Jordan leadoff triple in the fifth inning.
Forrest finished the season with a 27-7 record after the conclusion of their fifth consecutive state tournament appearance and seventh in ten years.
They exceeded the expectations of many inside the game as explained by FHS head coach Becky Cheatham in a postgame interview after the loss when she said that early in the season a veteran umpire had come up to her at the pre-season Shelbyville Playday and said that he didn't think Forrest had a whole lot to work with.
In Thursday's postgame team meeting Cheatham told the team the difference in Forrest softball and other programs is that she took that as a challenge.
Cheatham said, "We don't give up. I didn't give up on them. We were on them, they improved and that is why we are here. It is not an 'I' thing, we were on them, we were on them everyday to improve and since March till now, they're a different team."
At the conclusion of the ballgame the same umpire returned and said he owed her an apology, stating that he felt that Forrest had done the best job they had ever done from where they started to where they ended up.
"No doubt, we did not look good in Shelbyville," said Cheatham. "I think the important thing all of us need to understand is that you can't give up and you can't give in."
Forrest is still young as they lose just two seniors, but boy are they big ones in Rachel Curtis and Shelby Stinnett who will both go on to play college softball at Columbia State Community College and MTSU respectively.
Cheatham talked about her two seniors after the contest, "You can't ask anymore out of Shelby and Rachel. They have been here, they have been committed and you have to have that same kind of commitment out of everybody if we are going to continue to step up."
Cheatham added, "I think we have that, they're just young and I hope this hurts enough to where they understand they have to have that commitment."
Curtis has been a rock at the hot corner, in the locker room, and at the dish where she has delivered time and time again over the years.
Stinnett's brilliant career (119 wins) will go down as one of the best ever in Tennessee as she holds the all-time TSSAA record in state tournament career pitching appearances with 21 and innings pitched in the state tournament (130.5).
Stinnett gave up just two earned runs this week at the Spring Fling and said after the game about her career at Forrest, "It's been a great five years with great girls and great coaches. I came in as an eighth grader not expecting much."
Stinnett smiled and added, "I remember getting mad at Miss Cheatham. I hated her guts. She would sit me on the bench when I was batting .500 and went 1-3. This year I was a little nervous, but I love my team and I love my teammates. One of the funnest and best years I have ever had. Just glad we got this far and hopefully they will do great things and I wish them the best."
As far as the two state records Stinnett said, "It means a lot, but I couldn't have gotten any of these without my team. I might be the one who gets this and gets that, but looking back on it if I didn't have the team I had or the coaches support I wouldn't have done any of that, so I am just grateful for that and I hope someone can follow in my footsteps and do better things."
It was a remarkable feat just for Stinnett to be pitching at all this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall, but her determination never wavered, even though one doctors' opinion was that she would never pitch again.
The surgery usually requires up to a year to recover from, but Stinnett made it back in time for opening day and went on to lead Forrest down a familiar road, but not a road many expected them to travel.
Asked about the expectations for the Lady Rockets next year, Cheatham said, "They are all going to play this summer and face some good pitching and just get more experience. We have got to face more good pitching before we get to this point. We are going to do that. The Renfroes are not done, Anna is just a sophomore. I think they all understand that we have got to become better hitters and they are going to work at it. If they work at it and try then we will be better."