Rockets bounce back with first round win
A disappointing 15-11 loss to Community on the last day of the regular season sent Forrest all the way down to a third seed in the District 9-A Tournament, but the Rockets bounced back in Thursday's first round with a 9-4 win over Huntland in Chapel Hill.
"Our district is real close," said Forrest head coach Babe Hardison. "They were probably just a hit or two away from being right in the ballgame, but we banged it around with them and hit the ball good."
Hardison added, "If we can keep that up and play a little better defense we can be a good ballclub."
Ryan Daughrity's first inning grand slam gave Forrest some much needed early momentum, and after the Hornets cut the lead to a single run in fifth inning, a couple of errors in the bottom of the same inning gave Forrest a chance to capitalize and put the game away, and they did, scoring three unearned runs.
Zach Horvath got the win on the hill, going six solid innings before giving way to Damien Lee in the seventh.
Horvath gave up four earned runs on six hits, while striking out seven and walking one and Lee worked his way out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the top of the seventh to preserve the win.
A 1-2-3 first inning served up by Horvath on the Hornets sent the Rockets to the plate and Horvath led it off with an infield single.
Cody Dowler sacrificed Austin Harber (courtesy runner for Horvath) to second before Zach Brewer drew a walk and a pitch by Huntland starter Austin Williams hit Leland Brothers to load the sacks.
Williams got an out on a Forrest strikeout before Daughrity's towering grand salami deep over the left field fence made it a 4-0 ballgame.
"That was very important," said Hardison. "Our kids have a tendency to let down a little when they get a pretty big lead early, but we guarded against that and came back and did a good job swinging with them."
Horvath nailed Tyler Nunley with a pitch with one out in the second, but picked him off at first base and then struck out the next Hornet batter to end the inning.
A Cody Dowler RBI double in the home half of the inning made it 5-0 Rockets.
There was no scoring in the third inning and in the top of the fourth, Mikey Herron's spectacular grab and throw out at shortstop had Hardison hollering from the dugout to the senior, "That's a baseball play right there."
In the top of the next inning, Huntland sliced the Rocket lead to a single run on four hits, two walks, and a fielder's choice RBI.
The big blows were a two-run double by Jonah Bradley that made it 4-2 and an RBI single by Nunley that cut the lead to 4-3.
Dakota West reached on a leadoff error for the Rockets in the bottom of the frame and Thaddeus Reyes came in to run for the Rockets backstop.
Another Huntland infield error on a Daughrity grounder made it second and third before Herron knocked in Reyes with a sacrifice fly to deep right.
One out later, Jake Burkett slashed a double to left field before Horvath grounded a ball to short that was misplayed, allowing both Daughrity and Burkett to score, making it 8-4.
Horvath escaped a two-on, two out jam in the sixth that ended with Brewer going high up in the air to snag a line drive at second base.
Brewer, still fired up from the defensive gem, drilled a leadoff homer over the centerfield fence that accounted for Forrest's final run.
Lee came in from the bullpen to relieve Horvath in the seventh and a single, a base on balls, and an error loaded the sacks full of Hornets with no outs.
Lee got the first out at home on a bouncer back to the mound, struck out the next Huntland hitter, and neatly got out of mess with a ground ball to Brewer at second to end the game.
"Lee's a good pitcher," said Hardison. "He hasn't had as much experience as I would have liked him to have this year, but he throws the ball hard, stays around the plate, and he will be a good pitcher for us."
Top seeded Cascade will host the remainder of the district tournament and the Rockets play number two seeded Eagleville at high noon tomorrow.