Hardison, Rockets reach the end of the road
The Forrest Rockets reached the end of the road Monday night in Eagleville, suffering a 4-1 loss in the third round of the District 9-A Tournament, ending head coach Babe Hardison's 26-year career at the helm of the Rockets.
Hardison finished with a 484-264 record and said after the game, "I wish we could have won all of it, which is the wish of everybody that plays and coaches too, but we have improved this year. We came a long way this year, we were not real good early, but we came on and were a pretty good team."
Hardison added, "Of course the high point was playing in the state tournament, but there have been a lot of high points. Just about every year we have had kids with great attitudes, kids that give all they can, and it has been great. Minor was special, but we have had a lot of good baseball players here at Chapel Hill and we have been competitive for a long time."
Forrest gave up an unearned run without the luxury of a base hit in the bottom of the first inning and just could not get the big hit at the right time to threaten the host Eagles.
In the top of the second, Paten Pruitt walked and one out later, Ryan Daughrity doubled to right to put Rocket runners on second and third.
Eagleville lefty Ryan Hammonds got out of the jam on a strikeout and a fly ball.
In the home half of the inning, Forrest southpaw Zach Horvath worked his way out of a two-on, no-out situation when Thaddeus Reyes made a nice play at shortstop, snaring a line drive to end the inning.
In the third, another Forrest threat was squelched on an inning-ending 5-4-3, around-the-horn double play and this time, Eagleville took advantage, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-0 lead.
David Morton tripled, driving home Bryan Smith, who had led off the inning with a double, and two batters later, Taylor Fitzgerald knocked in Smith with a sacrifice fly RBI to left field.
The game went to the fifth inning with the Rockets still trailing 3-0, but back-to-back singles by Blake Leonard and Jacob Daughrity with two outs gave Forrest a glimmer of hope, but it was not to be as Hammonds induced a ground ball to second base for an easy third out.
A Jake McDougal RBI base knock for Eagleville in the bottom of the fifth sent the Rockets back up in the sixth, trailing 4-0.
Zach Brewer lashed a triple to deep center with one out in the sixth and Pruitt walked to put runners on the corners.
Brewer trotted home moments later on a wild pitch to remove the goose egg from the Forrest side of the scoreboard and Richard Hardin drew a base on balls to end Hammonds' night on the mound for Eagleville.
McDougal came to the hill, quickly retiring the next two Rocket batters to put out the fire.
Tanner Garvin came to the mound for the Rockets and held the Eagles in check in the bottom of the sixth.
The Rockets were down to their last at-bat for the season, and with one down, Jacob Daughrity walked and Horvath followed with a single to keep the campaign alive.
McDougal got the next Rocket batter swinging, and after a balk moved both runners up to second and third, Hardison's career and the Forrest baseball season came to a close on a called third strike.