Rockets escape Cougar upset bid, advance to 9-A semifinals
The top-seeded Forrest Rockets, coming off a bye in the first-round of the District 9-A Tournament, narrowly escaped an upset bid by No. 4 MTCS Friday night in Chapel Hill when they broke a 3-3 tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning that held up in a 5-3 win.
"We got tee-shirts made up that say District 9-A is the SEC of Class-A baseball and I think every baseball game that has been played in the tournament show far has proved that and this one did too," said Forrest head coach Chris Parker. "I knew we have been through some adversity and I knew we would battle back and now we have to go do everything we can do to get the next one, because that guarantees us a spot in the region."
After Forrest starting pitcher Logan Hollingsworth escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the first inning, the Rockets scored on a sacrifice fly RBI by Austin Harber that scored Jacob Daughrity, who had earlier walked.
The Cougars did not score in the second inning, but Forrest scratched across another run in the home half of the frame, beginning with a leadoff walk by Tanner Garvin.
Austin Harmon came in to run for Garvin and wound up on second base on a sacrifice bunt by Kennedy Mathis before tagging up and going to third on a deep fly to right field by Boone Sweeney.
Hollingsworth helped himself out when he slashed an RBI base hit, making it a 2-0 ballgame.
There was no scoring in the third inning and in the top of the fourth, the Cougars came back to tie and could have had more if not for a bit of luck that went Forrest's way.
It all started when Griffin Harper banged a one-out base hit and wound up on third moments later on an errant pickoff attempt.
MTCS starting pitcher Peyton Buckner followed with a base on balls before the first stroke of luck went in favor of the Rockets when Harper was caught in between third and home for the second out on a Trey Hickey bunt.
Ben Brown came up with a big two-out RBI base hit that made it 2-1 and ended Hollingsworth's stint on the mound.
Alex Brewer came on and was rudely greeted by Phillip Bonabi, who laced a rope to right/center, initially scoring both Hickey and Brown, but after further review, the umpires ruled that the ball had bounced over the fence and Brown would have to return to third on the ground-rule double that tied the game.
Brewer converted the lucky bounce into an inning ending fly ball out to Daughrity in center field.
Mathis stroked a one-out single in the bottom of the inning and would eventually come around to score on a wild pitch, putting the Rockets back in front 3-2.
The Cougars would not quit and they got a little lucky in the fifth when Justin Winn led off with a walk, stole second with one out and went to third on a wild pitch with two outs before Harper walked.
With two strikes on Buckner, Harper took off for second and should have been out on the throw from Harber, but the tag was missed and Winn scored easily, tying the game at 3-3.
Forrest squandered a scoring chance in the bottom of the fifth and Mathis came to the hill in the sixth and retired the Cougars in order with two strikeouts, and a little help from Harber, who gunned down Brown, trying to steal second base after reaching on a bunt single with one out.
Hollingsworth began the go-ahead rally when he was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Brewer followed with a sharp single up the middle.
A passed ball moved both Rocket runners up one base and Daughrity broke the deadlock with a fielder's choice RBI before Landon Jones followed with an RBI double down the left field line, making it a 5-3 contest.
Mathis gave up a two-out walk in the top of the seventh, but the senior hurler whiffed the next Cougar to end the game and send the Rockets to a Monday night semifinal match-up versus Community, who beat Huntland 6-3 in the nightcap.
"There is nobody that wants is more than theses seniors, look at Jacob Daughrity, Kennedy Mathis there at the end, Harber, playing the game, maybe a little too hard, Ryan Byrd over there doing all the things that he does and Caleb Keller, just waiting for his chance to grab a bat," said Parker.
Mathis picked up the win for the Rockets, who had seven hits in the game with Brewer (2-3, RS, BB) and Mathis (2-2, RS) getting two hits each, while Hollingsworth (1-2, RS, RBI, HBP, SB), Jones (1-2, RBI, 2BB), and Slayton Wild (1-3) all managed one base knock apiece.