Lady Rockets bury Jo Byrns in region opener

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
You can't even see Forrest's Mandi Conley as her teammates mob her at home plate after the junior shortstop belted a grand slam home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the game way at 10-2. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Forrest hosted Jo Byrns at the Field of Dreams on Monday night in the Region 5-A Tournament opener and the District 9-A champion Lady Rockets brought out some heavy lumber in a big 10-2 win, securing a berth in the region final and in the Class A sectional round on Friday night.

In the process, the Lady Rockets buried a long lasting bad dream from last year's 1-0 loss to Houston County in the first round of the region tournament.

"We are not done yet," said Forrest head coach Becky Cheatham. "We got rid of one, but we still got some more to get rid of."

Forrest senior second sacker Courtney Hollandsworth (22) lashes an RBI triple in the fourth inning as the Lady Rockets beat Jo Byrns 10-2 Monday night in the first round of the Region 5-A Tournament at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill.

On Wednesday, Forrest will host Moore County, who defeated East Robertson 7-1 Tuesday night.

The winner of that game will host a Friday night sectional game versus the Region 6-A runners-up and the loser will take a bus trip to the winner's house in Region 6-A.

Friday night's winners will earn a trip to the Blue Cross Spring Fling in Murfreesboro next week, while the losers will watch from the stands.

Forrest banged out 11 base hits versus two Red Devil pitchers with Lady Rocket hurler Brooke Herron leading the way with a perfect 4-4 performance at the dish and two RBIs.

Herron, the regular season District 9-A MVP also turned in a stellar complete game performance in the circle for Forrest, giving up one earned run on five hits, while striking out three, walking two, and hitting one Red Devil batter.

The big blow that put the game away came in the six-run bottom of the fourth inning when junior shortstop Mandi Conley made her first varsity home run a big one, belting a grand slam hom erun that electrified the standing-room-only crowd.

Herron got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the first inning and in the home half of the frame, the Lady Rockets scored twice on RBIs by Herron and Adrean Jordan.

Jo Byrns put two runners on base with one down in the second, but Herron escaped again on a fly ball to Kiyoko Puca in right field and a nice play by Kaitlin Toombs on a hot shot to third to end the threat.

Sara Jordan drew a one-out walk in the second inning and came trotting home when Courtney Hollandsworth lashed an RBI triple down the right field line.

Hollandsworth came home on a passed ball to make it 4-0, but the Red Devils cut the lead in half in the top of the third, beginning with an RBI double by Caitlyn Cobb that scored Sam Cox, who had singled with one out.

On the next play, Forrest first sacker Adrean Jordan went into the Jo Byrns dugout to make a great catch on a foul pop-up, but the Red Devils' Heather Johnson, who was on third was awarded one base for a run scored on the dead-ball play by Jordan to make it 4-2.

Neither squad scored in their next at-bat as the game moved to the bottom of the fourth inning.

Sara Jordan started things off with a leadoff double and Hollandsworth executed her second perfect sacrifice bunt of the game to move Jordan to third base.

An infield error on an Adrean Jordan ground ball scored sister Sara and Herron followed with a double to score the senior Jordan.

Puca drew a base on balls that ended Johnson's night in the circle for Jo Byrns.

Cox came to the circle and retired the next batter for out No. 2 before Ciara Cook beat out an infield grounder for a base hit that loaded the sacks for Conley.

Conley took a 1-1 pitch deep over the right field fence for the grand salami and when she made it around the bases and tearfully arrived at home plate her teammates mobbed her as the Forrest crowd roared with admiration.

"I am so happy for Mandi," said a smiling Cheatham after the contest. "She has been a real team player all year. When things didn't go her way this year, she just hung in there and hung in there, so I am extremely happy for her, she has had a great attitude."

Herron retired nine out of the next 11 Jo Byrns' batters she faced the rest of the way, improving her stellar senior season record in the circle to 24-3 for the 26-6 Lady Rockets.

"It was a great team effort tonight," said Cheatham. "I think everyone contributed. Now we just have to execute like we did tonight and we will be fine.""