FMS Rockets claim Eastern Division crown
The FMS Rockets are one win away from claiming their fourth straight Mid-South Conference title after a heart-stopping 4-3 win versus Cascade Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.
The Rockets went undefeated in the Eastern Division Tournament and now await the winner from out west on Monday night.
FMS head coach Bart Joyce said after the game, "We are champs three years running now and hope to make it four in a row. We will come out Monday and be ready to go."
Forrest beat Community 9-1 on Tuesady to set up the winner's bracket final versus the Champions and they took the lead early against the Wartrace nine, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Ryan Yelensky led off the home half of the first with a double to right field and after a fly out for the first out, Yelensky went to third on a passed ball.
Boone Sweeney knocked in Yelensky with a sacrifice fly to deep center and Landon Jones kept the inning going with a base hit to left.
A passed ball sent Landon Jones to second and Jesse Pruitt followed with a base on balls.
Both runners moved up on a wild pitch before an error on a Bryce Oliver hot shot to third sent Landon Jones home for a 2-0 Rockets' lead.
FMS starting pitcher Alex Brewer cruised thorough the second inning and the Rockets had two-on with two-outs in the bottom of the inning, but could not push a run across.
Brewer set down Cascade 1-2-3 in the third as did Champion reliever Seth Gardner, sending the fast moving contest to the fourth inning.
Three strikeouts by Brewer in the frame sent the Cascade defense back to field and the Rockets scored twice in the home half of the inning.
Brayden Gentry walked to lead-off the inning and Marshall McKee sacrificed Gentry to second on a perfect bunt.
Gentry came home on another Cascade error with Jacob Jones at the dish and Yelensky followed the Champions' miscue with an RBI base hit to left that scored Jacob Jones.
Cascade finally got on the board in the top of the fifth on an RBI base knock by Trent Sutton before Brewer escaped any further damage when he snagged a pop-up to end the inning.
Forrest did not score in the inning and the Champions threatened big-time in the sixth.
Chandler Sulcer struck out swinging to lead off the frame, but Sweeney overthrew the first base bag after he dropped the ball and Sulcer was safe.
Another FMS error made it first and second and a walk to Cascade reliever Caleb Smith loaded the sacks full of orange and white runners.
Joyce sent in Jacob Jones to relieve Brewer on the mound, and on the first pitch the Rockets turned a pretty 6-4-3 double play that was finalized on an outstanding scoop by Pruitt at first base.
Sulcer scored on the double-bubble, making it 4-2.
The second of four and maybe the best of the foursome of great defensive plays took place next as Kain Harrison robbed Lane Simpson of the game-tying hit when he ran in and dived to catch the ball just before it touched the ground to end the inning.
"What a huge play to end that inning there," said Joyce. "That was the best defensive game we have played all year. Harrison made a great play, Pruitt made that scoop at first on the double play, and then Harrison makes another great play to throw out that runner at third. And at the end there, Yelensky threw a perfect strike to Boone, who blocked the plate like he has done all year."
FMS loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, but Smith got out of the jam on a fly ball to center for the third out.
In the seventh, Cascade speedster Keiron Patton led off with a base hit up the middle.
After a pop-up to short for the first out, Sutton drilled a ball to right for a base hit, but once again Harrison threw the leather at the Champs when he gunned down Patton trying to make it to third base.
Tyler Huff kept the rally alive with a base hit and Kevin Conn came in to run for Huff.
Sulcer came up next and drove in Sutton to make it a 4-3 contest.
Cascade's Austin Gentry drilled a base hit to center and Yelensky came up throwing, firing a perfect strike to Sweeney, who blocked the plate and tagged out Conn to end the wild game and send the Rockets to Monday night's title game in Chapel Hill.
"One more ballgame," said Joyce. "It comes down to one game and that is what you want at tournament time. Winner take all, you don't care who it is and that is what you play this game for. Either you come home champions or you come home in second place."