Lady Rockets beat champs, return to Spring Fling
Forrest was not intimidated by the defending Class-A state champion Richland Lady Raiders and it showed as the Lady Rockets spotted them one run before turning the tide to capture a convincing 6-2 state sectional win at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill on Sunday.
"I was really afraid it would come down to a one-run ballgame and when they went up 1-0, I thought this is not good," said Forrest head coach Becky Cheatham. "But we were able to bounce back and do what we needed to do and I think our girls are better today than what we gave them credit for."
With their 19th win in eleven sectional game appearances, Forrest will make its third consecutive trip to the TSSAA Spring Fling and continue an incredible string of playing in the state tournament nine out of the last thirteen years.
"That's awesome," said Cheatham. "I want this to carry over, we played under pressure today and we just told them we are not going over there just to be going, we want to finish. If everybody maintains their focus, we hit the ball, and play solid defense than we will have given ourselves a shot and that is all you can ask for."
The Lady Rockets (30-7) will open up first round play on Tuesday versus the University School of Johnson City (34-8) in a first ever meeting between the two schools.
The Lady Buccaneers, who beat Meigs County 3-2 in sectional action also won the District 1-A and Region 1-A titles and will be making their third consecutive trip to the Spring Fling.
Katie Warrick came up huge again for Forrest, pitching a complete game in the circle and hitting a leadoff homerun in the bottom of the first inning that turned the momentum in the Lady Rockets favor for the remainder of the contest.
Richland's Taylor Parker reached on an error to begin the game and Lady Raider standout hurler Ashton Edwards followed with a double to center, but a great hustle play, followed by a missile relay throw to the infield by Kiyoko Puca stopped both runners in their tracks.
A mistake on the ensuing rundown play allowed Parker to score, but Edwards was tagged out and Warrick escaped any further damage when she retired the next two Richland batters.
In the home half of the inning, Warrick crushed an Edwards's pitch over the left field fence, tying the game and putting Richland on their heels.
"Wow, that just took a load off everybody's shoulders," said Cheatham. "What a shot, that ball landed out in the middle of the football practice field."
Piper Elmore followed with a base on balls before Edwards got the first out on a pop-up.
Samantha King reached on a Richland error prior to a scorching base hit up the middle by Liz "The Eraser" Daughrity, scoring Elmore with the go-ahead run.
Warrick mowed down Richland 1-2-3 in the top of the second, and in the bottom of the inning, Forrest went to work on offense once again.
Runs on the way
Amanda Patterson got things going with a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Savannah Brothers.
Warrick was pitched around for a walk and Kelsie Darnell came in to run for the Forrest pitcher.
Edwards managed to get the second out on a pop-up to third, but Elmore came through with an RBI single and King gave Warrick plenty of breathing room when she drilled an opposite field three-run homer, making it a 6-1 ballgame.
"That was awesome, opposite field," said Cheatham. "What do you do if you're the opposing team, you do the best you can do and she got it done anyway."
Parker homered with two outs in the top of third, making it 6-2 and from there, both hurlers locked horns in a pitcher's duel for the remainder of the contest, won by Warrick, who gave up just four hits in the contest, while walking one and striking out two Richland batters.
Forrest picked up eight hits versus Edwards with Daughrity (2-3, RBI, 2B) and Patterson (2-2, RS, HBP) getting two hits apiece, while Warrick (1-3, HR, RS, RBI), King (1-4, HR, RS, 3RBIs), Elmore (1-3, RS, RBI, sac bunt), and Lainey Mays (1-3) all had one base knock in the contest.
"I want to finish because I want them to have the experience of accomplishing that goal and know what an awesome experience and what an awesome memory that could be," said Cheatham.