FMS Rockets advance to title game
The FMS Rockets defeated intra-county rival Cornersville 5-1 Wednesday night in the loser's bracket final of the Duck River Valley Conference Tournament at Liberty to advance to Thursday night's title game where they have to defeat Fayetteville twice to claim the championship.
"Now we got to win two, we have done it before and we can do it again," said FMS head coach Bart Joyce.
Ethan Mealer took the rock on the mound for Joyce and the Rockets and turned in a solid performance to pick up the win, while Dustin Brashears came on in the bottom of the sixth and finished out the game to earn the save.
Mealer went five and one-third innings, giving up zero earned runs on five hits, while walking two, hitting two, and striking out six Bulldog batters in the contest.
Graham Duke did a yeoman's job for the Bulldogs on the hill, giving up one earned run on just two hits, while striking out 10 Forrest batters in the contest, but what hurt Duke was two hit batsmen and six bases on balls, plus two big errors behind him in the fourth inning.
"Both pitchers pitched a heck of a game," said Joyce. "Graham Duke is a great pitcher, I think his pitch count just got up and had to come out and Ethan Mealer did a wonderful job, keeping us in the ballgame until we finally scratched across some runs."
After the Bulldogs failed to score in the top of the first, Duke escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the bottom of the inning when he struck out three Rockets in order to end the threat.
Mealer also came up huge in the top of the second inning, getting out of a two-on, no-out jam, including two strikeouts to end the frame.
In the home half of the frame, Duke lost the strike zone, walking four out of the first five FMS hitters he faced with Dylan Pendley picking up an RBI base on balls to open the scoring for the Rockets.
Both hurlers stayed strong on the hill before FMS came up with a pair of unearned runs on a just one hit in the bottom of the fourth.
Dylan Eady, who had walked earlier in the inning, scored on a Cornersville error, making it 2-0 and Pendley, who made it to first on the Bulldogs' first miscue, scored from third when Chase Karaczewski was hit by a Duke pitch with the bases loaded.
Both pitchers struck out the side in the fifth inning and in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs made their comeback attempt, beginning with a leadoff single by Duke.
Raymond Cooksey followed with a base on balls and Eli Woodard moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt.
Cade Hopkins hit a ball deep in the shortstop hole and beat out the throw to first, while Duke scampered home, making it a 3-1 contest.
Brashears came on in relief of Mealer and picked up his teammate in a big way, striking out the next two Bulldog batters, escaping the jam.
Duke left the game and the Rockets took advantage, scoring a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Brashears and a run-scoring single by Karaczewski.
The Bulldogs tried to stay alive when Cameron Whittaker banged a one-out single in the top of the seventh before the game ended on a pair of ground ball outs.
Brashears wielded a big stick for the Rockets, going 3-4 with an RBI, while Karaczewski (1-2, 2RBIs, 2HBP) and Lane Allen (1-1) had one hit apiece for the Rockets.
Pendley walked three times, scored two runs, stole a base and drove home one and Eady walked twice and scored a run.
Duke had two hits for the Bulldogs and scored once, while Whittaker (1-4), Woodard (1-2, sac bunt, SB), Hopkins (1-2, RBI, BB) and Zach Blackwell (1-2, SB) had one base knock apiece for the Bulldogs.
Anthony S. Puca