Vikings beat out Rockets for district title
The Forrest Rockets (26-11) had to settle for second place in the District 9-A tournament for the second straight year after dropping a hard fought 9-7 decision to the Community Vikings (20-15) in the championship game on Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.
Having already split four one-run games this season, the Rockets and Vikings were embroiled in another tight battle on Wednesday and played to a 7-7 tie through the first five and a half innings of play.
Forrest, however, finally blinked in the latter stages of the contest, as Community tallied two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to grab a 9-7 lead before holding the Rockets scoreless in the top of the seventh to claim the District title.
"I thought there were going to be a lot of runs scored tonight because both teams were pretty deep into their pitching staffs. I wasn't surprised that we had another close game because of the recent history of these two programs," said FHS coach Chris Parker.
Despite Wednesday's setback, the Rockets still earned a spot in the Region 5-A tournament where they will play the District 10-A champion on Monday night.
The Vikings finished with nine hits overall against five Forrest pitchers, but were also aided by five walks and two FHS errors. Taylor Paschal, Austin Cagle, and Gabe Warrick each notched two hits and a RBI to lead Community's offensive attack, while Kyle Davidson (2 RBI), Darian Pride (1 RBI), and Tyler Broiles had one hit apiece.
Rocket reliever Kennedy Mathis suffered the loss, allowing one run in two innings of work on one hit and one walk.
Forrest tallied nine hits and six walks against three Viking hurlers, but left eight men on base, hit into two double plays, and had another runner thrown out on the base paths. Jacob Daughrity (1 RBI), Alex Brewer, and Mathis registered two hits apiece to pace the Rockets at the plate, while Logan Hollingsworth (2 RBI), Boone Sweeney (2 RBI), and Austin Welty each had one hit.
Cagle picked up the win on the mound for Community by retiring the lone batter he faced in the top of the sixth inning. Viking starting pitcher Dylan West had to settle for the no decision and gave up seven runs over five and two-third innings.
Things looked rosy for the Rockets early on, as they pushed across three runs in the top of the first inning on the strength of a double by Brewer, a Daughrity RBI single, a Hollingsworth RBI single, two passed balls, a walk by Mathis, and a double steal to take a 3-0 lead.
Forrest plated another run in the top of the third with the help of a Caleb Keller walk, a sacrifice bunt by Welty, and an error to open up a 4-0 advantage, but Community quickly turned the tide and plated four runs in the bottom half of the frame behind a Pride bases loaded walk and RBI singles from Paschal, Cagle, and Davidson to knot the contest at 4-4.
The Vikings hung up another crooked number in the bottom of the fourth and tallied three runs in the inning with the aid of two walks, a Paschal single, an error, a sacrifice fly by Davidson, and a Warrick RBI single to grab a 7-4 lead.
FHS put together a rally of their own in the top of the sixth and crossed home plate three times in the frame behind Brewer single, a single by Daughrity, a Landon Jones walk, a RBI groundout by Hollingsworth, and a Sweeney two-run single to retie the game at 7-7.
Community quickly countered punched and plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth to claim a 9-7 lead. Cagle drew a walk before advancing to third on a two-out single by Pride. After Pride intentionally got caught in a run down a few moments later, Cagle stole home to give the Vikings an 8-7 advantage while Pride safely reached second base on the play. Pride the sprinted home on a Warrick RBI infield single to cap the scoring in the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Paschal assumed the role of closer for Community and retired the Rockets in order to clinch the championship for the Vikings.