Lady Rockets stun Columbia Academy
The Forrest Lady Rockets had to hear for days how there was no chance in beating a powerful Columbia Academy squad and the 2008 state champions did not like the disrespect one bit.
"The only ones who believed were us as a team and coaches, our parents, and our family here in Chapel Hill and that was about it," said Forrest head coach Becky Cheatham. "Certainly no one in Columbia believed in us, but that's ok."
The blue and white went out and made believers of the outside world once again, stunning the private school Lady Bulldogs 4-2 in a Class-A Sectional contest at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
"They executed the game plan exactly like we told them they needed to and when you do that, you get the 'W'," said Cheatham.
With the win, Forrest (21-7) punched their ticket back to the Blue Cross Spring Fling for the second year in a row and nine out of the last twelve seasons.
"This never gets old, never, I never want to stay home," said Cheatham. "In March, this looked pretty doom and gloom, but we have progressed and I knew we were capable. But, most importantly, these are a bunch of kids with a lot of heart, who want to be here and that's how you build on that tradition."
Only four-time champion Trinity Christian Academy can match Forrest's record of Class-A Blue Cross Spring Fling appearances since the 2000-2001 season, while Columbia Academy has been there just once in that time span, finishing second in 2006.
On Saturday, a two-run, first inning dinger by Columbia Academy shortstop Sydney Sproul buoyed the hopes of the Lady Bulldogs, but it did not diminish the spirit of the public school girls, especially Forrest starting pitcher Sara Jordan.
Jordan, who has been on fire in the circle for over two weeks, kept the visitors from Maury County off balance rest of the way, mixing off-speed and precision to shut down CA.
"Wow!" said Cheatham. "Sara did an outstanding job, I am so impressed, she has really come along this year and she really laid it out there."
Jordan gave up just four more hits over the next six innings, while walking one and striking out two Lady Bulldog batters to remain undefeated in the post-season.
The Lady Rockets' offense answered the first-inning challenge immediately, scoring two runs to tie the game in the home half of the initial inning.
Kelsey Darnell started things off with a one-out base on balls and Katie Warrick reached on an error, putting runners on second and third.
Jordan delivered a run scoring single to center field and Liz "The Eraser" Daughrity scratched courtesy runner Kyleah Hengesbach off the base paths on a fielder's choice RBI groundout, tying the game at 2-2.
Forrest was fired up as Jordan began the second with a strikeout, Kiyoko Puca made a diving catch in center field for out number two, and senior Mandy Conley sent the CA girls back to the field on a pretty play at shortstop.
Columbia Academy starter Shelby Cummings had little trouble in the bottom of the inning before Jordan survived singles by Caitlyn Carter and Jordan Ellerby in the top of the third.
In front to stay
Darnell walked again, leading off the home half of the third before Warrick and Jordan followed with base hits, loading the sacks full of Lady Rockets.
Daughrity did the job once more, sending Darnell home on a groundout and Savannah Brothers followed with another fielder's choice RBI, putting Forrest up 4-2.
CA went quietly in the fourth, but came back with two-on and two-out in the top of the fifth.
Jordan snared a grounder and threw to Warrick at third for a force out and the inning ended on a bouncer to Warrick, who stepped on the bag at the hot corner.
In the top of the sixth, a pair of line drive outs offset a walk and two errors by Forrest, with the first shot turning into a 5-3 double play, while Jordan grabbed the second liner on a diving catch in the circle to end the inning.
Time to celebrate
Forrest was three outs from state bound and the top of the seventh inning began with a ground out to Warrick and a line drive to Conley.
An error on Forrest momentarily delayed the celebration before Savannah Brothers squeezed the final out on a pop-up behind the plate, ending the game.
"I am just really happy for them," said Cheatham. "We are going to have a lot of fun next week."
The Lady Rockets take on the Whitwell Lady Tigers (22-15) in Tuesday's opening round of the Blue Cross Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
Whitwell were runners-up in the District 6A Tournament to Sale Creek but came back to beat Sale Creek for the Region 3A title before taking down Trousdale County 2-1 in the sectionals.
Forrest and Whitwell have met twice before with the Lady Rockets beating the Lady Tigers 4-3 in the second round of 2007 state tournament and 7-3 at the Lincoln County Border Battle in 2002.
Jordan went 2-2 at the dish with an RBI for Forrest, while Warrick (1-3, 2RS), Samantha King (1-3), and Puca (1-3) all had one hit apiece.
Darnell (0-1, 2BB, 2RS), Daughrity (0-3, 2FC 2RBIs), and Savannah Brothers (0-3, RBI) rounded out the Forrest offense.
Carter had a 3-4 night with a stolen base and a run scored, while Sproul (1-2, RS, HR, 2RBIs, BB,), Ellerby (1-3), and Miranda Goats (1-3) all had one hit apiece for Columbia Academy.