FMS Lady Rockets sweep Big South Tournament
The FMS Lady Rockets made a clean sweep of the Big South Conference Tournament over the weekend at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill, winning four consecutive games to reward long-time head coach Bunky Elmore (nine years) with her first-ever conference tournament title.
"We had a motto at the beginning of the year, 'Can we do it, yes we can' and we did it," said a beaming Elmore after the contest. "They set their minds to it and they did it and I am very proud of all of them, they worked hard all season."
Drive to title
Forrest began their drive to the title with a tough 4-3 win over fourth-seeded E.A. Cox in Friday night's opening round.
On Saturday morning, the Lady Rockets took on Cornersville, who defeated Lewisburg Middle School (LMS) 7-4 in round one.
The Lady Rockets took care of business, winning 11-4 over the Lady Bulldogs.
Now it came down to the loser's bracket final between the Lady Dawgs and the Tigerettes, who had eliminated E.A. Cox in Friday night's first round finale.
After trailing 5-0, the Tigerettes came from behind to take a 9-8 win over Cornersville.
Forrest and Lewisburg hooked up again in the division championship game with the Lady Rockets taking the win 9-5, setting up a one game for all the marbles match-up versus the defending champion Cascade Lady Champions, who came to Chapel Hill with an undefeated divisional tournament record.
The Lady Rockets dominated the contest from start to finish, capturing the Big South hardware with an easy 8-2 win.
FMS seventh-grader Lainey Mays was the force behind the Lady Rockets dominance in the title clash, going 4-4 (two doubles, one single, one triple) with four runs scored, two RBIs, and a stolen base on offense.
In the circle, Mays was even more dominant, tossing her fourth consecutive complete game for the win, scattering seven hits, striking out seven, and walking zero Lady Champion batters.
"Lainey is a warrior, she is a great one," said Elmore. "I love her to death."
Kyleah Hengesbach was also lethal at the dish for FMS, putting up a 3-3 title game performance with three RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base.
Amanda Patterson had two hits in four at bats with a run scored and a stolen base, Kelsey "Fun-pack" Darnell drove home a run and had a sacrifice bunt, and Cassie Whitworth and Taylor Patin had one hit and one RBI apiece in the game.
FMS jumped to an early 2-0 first inning lead on RBI base knocks by Hengesbach and Patin, while Mays held Cascade scoreless in the first three innings.
In the top of the third, FMS tacked on run number three when Mays led off the frame with double down the right field line, went to third on a passed ball and trotted home on a fielder's choice RBI by Hengesbach.
Cascade finally produced a run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI hit by Sara Beth Thomas to make it 3-1.
In the top of the fourth, Mays belted a leadoff single, stole second and was moved over to third base on a grounder the other way by Darnell.
Hengesbach came up with a shot to left that scored Mays, making it 4-1.
Mays mowed down the Lady Champs in order in the home half of the fifth, and in the top of the sixth, Forrest put the game away, scoring four times.
Patterson started the rally with a leadoff base knock and stole second base before scoring on a Whitworth RBI single with one out.
An error on Cascade, followed by a Mays two-run triple made it 7-1 before Darnell tacked on another insurance run with a 4-3 fielder's choice RBI.
Cascade tried to rally in the sixth as starting pitcher Kendall Durard tripled with one out and came home on a Thomas base hit before Mays struck out the next two batters to squelch the threat.
The game went to the final at bat for Cascade and Shania Schneider led off the last hope frame with a base hit up the gut.
Forrest recorded the first out on a comebacker to Mays in the circle; Patin scooped up a grounder and threw to Patterson at first for out number two, and the title was the Lady Rockets' when King made a nice scoop at short and fired just in time to get Kristen Heath at first to end the title tilt.
"This is always a special weekend for me," said Elmore, whose husband Kenneth "Porkchop" Elmore passed away suddenly on Easter Sunday in 2007. "It's been tough, my family was here for this, and I think we have a guardian angel watching over softball."
Mays, Darnell, Patterson, and Hengesbach were the four Forrest selections named to the all-tournament squad.
The E.A. Cox Lady Bulldogs gave FMS all they had in game one, nipping at the Lady Rockets' heels the entire way before falling by a single run 4-3.
There was no scoring until FMS broke through with two runs in the bottom of the third on back-to-back RBI hits by Hengesbach and Patin.
Whitworth knocked Piper Elmore home with run number three on a sacrifice fly in the fourth as Mays cruised along in the circle.
Patin led off the fifth inning with a double, went to third on an error and scored on a passed ball for a 4-0 Lady Rockets' lead.
Cox made it a game in the sixth inning, scoring three times to cut the lead to the slimmest of margins at 4-3.
Mays would not give in, shutting down the Lady Cougars in the seventh to secure the win and get the rest of the night off.
In game two Friday night, LMS and Cornersville took to the diamond and each squad scored a single run in the first inning as Tigerette shortstop Taliyah Angus walked with one out and scored on a Lady Bulldog error in the top of the inning.
Miranda Cooksey led off the Cornersville first with a base hit, stole second, went to third on a ground ball by Madison Hopkins, and scored on an RBI fielder's choice by Carson Coble.
Allison Sheroski drove home two in the top of the second and LMS hurler Autumn Kelley shut down CMS in the bottom of the frame.
CMS backstop Emily Martin drove home a run and scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the third, tying the game at 3.
The game went to the fifth inning and Cornersville scored an unearned run and an earned run on an RBI base knock from Kirstin Young.
The Lady Dawgs tacked on two more unearned runs in the sixth and that was enough for Coble, who earned the 7-4 win in the circle.
The Tigerettes staved off elimination in the final first round game Friday with a win over the Lady Cougars.
FMS, LMS move on
Forrest and Cornersville were pitted against each other in the Saturday morning winner's bracket game and the Lady Rockets erased an early 2-0 defeicit to score a big 11-4 win.
FMS banged out 12 hits in the contest with Mays (two RBIs), Darnell (two RBIs), Hengesbach (1 RBI), and Patterson (1 RBI, three runs scored) recorded two base hits apiece.
Piper Elmore and Dani Hoeft both drove in one and Mays gave up one earned run on six Cornersville hits, while walking one and striking out six for the win in the circle.
Coble went 2-3 with two runs scored for CMS and Cooksey, Samantha Proesser (RBI), Madison Spivey, and Courtney Darnell all had one hit apiece.
In the loser's bracket final, the Tigerettes scored an impressive 9-8 come from behind win to eliminate Cornersville.
CMS took a 5-0 lead to the bottom of the third before LMS stormed back with four runs on a two-run single by Madison Perryman and and RBI base hits from Skylar Brandon and Laura Beth Brown.
Cooksey walked with one out in the fourth before stealing second and third base and scoring on a passed ball to make it 6-4.
Kelley and Taylor Ingram recorded back-to-back, two-out hits in the bottom of the fifth and Kelley raced home on a wild pitch to make it 6-5, going to the sixth.
A double play in the top of the sixth by LMS brought the Tigerettes back up to bat and they went ahead 9-6 with four runs with the big hits coming from Brandon, who knocked home two runs and Ingram, who sent another Tigerette runner home.
Cornersville would not give up, scoring a pair of runs in the seventh, but the game ended on a nice play at third by Brandon, who scooped up a hot shot by Darnell and fired to first for the game-ending out.
Lady Rockets take divisional championship
LMS and FMS would square off in the divisional title game and the Tigerettes scored first, plating a run in the opening inning on an RBI base knock by Brandon.
Forrest came right back with two runs in their at bat in the first on RBI hits by Darnell and Hengesbach and scored again in the third on a Piper Elmore RBI to take a 3-1 lead.
LMS took a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning with the big hits coming from Sheroski and Angus.
Once again, FMS answered with a three-run bottom of the fourth as Patin drove home one on a sacrifice fly and Samantha King singled in another Lady Rocket.
Mays set down LMS 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth and in the bottom of the inning, Forrest scored three more runs on RBIs by Mays and Hengesbach to open up a 9-4 lead.
There was no scoring in the sixth inning and in the bottom of the seventh, Kelley made it 9-5 with an RBI hit before Mays induced a ground ball to Patterson at first to end the game and send FMS to the fateful title winning game versus Cascade.