Bulldogs edge Rockets 2-1 in sectional repeat
The Sectional round rematch between Cornersville and Forrest lived up to the hype, as the Bulldogs pulled out a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Rockets in Chapel Hill on Friday night to earn their second Class A State Tournament bid in three years.
Cornersville had defeated Forrest 4-1 in Sectionals two years ago to reach the State Tournament for the first time in the program's history, but the Rockets (21-9) appeared to be on the verge of avenging that setback on Friday and held a 1-0 lead through the first five innings of play.
The Bulldogs (19-10), however, came through in the clutch and pushed across two runs in the top of the sixth thanks to a RBI double by senior shortstop Tate Lowery and a RBI single from catcher Aaron Fox to seize a 2-1 advantage before Cornersville starting pitcher David Looney held Forrest scoreless over the final two frames.
"Each one is different and it feels good no matter what. Some of the kids were here the last time and some of them weren't. I'm just glad they got to experience this," said Cornersville coach Ben Putman.
Although he was disappointed that his team's season came to an end, Rocket coach Bart Joyce believes his squad can build from their strong playoff run, which saw Forrest capture both the District 9-A and Region 5-A tournament titles.
"I'm super proud of these guys. This bunch has faced a lot of adversity and has overcome a lot of adversity. They're 28 good guys that came together and worked hard," said Joyce. "This team is going to continue to get better because they're not scared to work. They hung in there against one of the best pitchers in Middle Tennessee tonight."
After tossing a five-hitter against the Rockets in their matchup two years ago, Looney once again shutdown Forrest's offense and limited FHS to just four hits and a two walks over seven innings while notching six strikeouts en route to picking up his 10th win of the season.
"The main reason I was confident about tonight's game was because I knew we had what it took to win. We've come together during the postseason and become a family. It's about all nine guys on the field not just me," said Looney. "I hate playing (Forrest) in the Sub State because I wish we could both go on. I know a lot of guys on that team and have played with them growing up."
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, tallied six hits against two Rocket hurlers. Lowery accounted for both Cornersville runs by going 2-for-3 with a double, a RBI, and a run scored. Fox (1 RBI), Hunter Talley, Looney, and Curt Taylor each recorded one hit for the Bulldogs as well with Talley scoring once.
Forrest starting pitcher Logan Hollingsworth was the tough luck loser on the mound and allowed two runs in five plus innings of work on five hits. Alex Brewer came on in relief of Hollingsworth and registered six strikeouts over two scoreless innings while allowing one hit.
Brewer, catcher Boone Sweeney, Jonathon Lykins, and Hollingsworth each had one hit for the Rockets.
Forrest had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the second inning after putting a runner on second with two outs thanks to a Hollingsworth single and a wild pitch, but Looney picked off courtesy runner Jaylen Smith to snuff out the threat.
Rockets lead early
Hollingsworth held Cornersville scoreless over the next two innings before the Rockets broke the stalemate by scratching out a run in the bottom of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead. After lining a one-out single into centerfield, Brewer advanced to third on a Sweeney single prior to scoring on the play with the aid a CHS throwing error.
The Bulldogs tried to respond in the top of the fifth and had runners on first and second with one out after Chance Dyer was hit by a pitch and Curt Taylor smacked a bloop single into centerfield. Cornersville was unable cash in on the opportunity, as Hollingsworth struck out Ben Taylor before Dyer was thrown out by Sweeny while trying to steal third.
Hollingsworth, though, was unable to keep the Bulldogs at bay in the top of the sixth, as Cornersville plated two runs in the frame to grab a 2-1 lead.
Talley singled to lead off the inning before advancing to second on a balk. Lowery then belted a RBI double into the left centerfield gap to drive in Talley prior to advancing to third on the throw to home plate.
"I felt comfortable against their pitcher and felt comfortable at the plate all night. I knew if I could hit one in the gap we'd score," said Lowery.
After fanning Looney, Brewer struck out J.D. Crabtree, but Crabtree reached first base when Sweeney was unable to come up with a ball in the dirt. Fox then lined a RBI single off Brewer's glove to bring home Lowery with the go ahead run.
Looney retired Forrest in order in the bottom of the sixth, but the Rockets appeared they might mount rally in the seventh when Lykins singled to lead off the inning. Forrest's comeback hopes were quickly doused, as Lykins was tagged out by Looney after getting caught in a run down between first and second before Looney retired the final two Rocket batters on an infield popup and a groundout to punch Cornersville's ticket to Murfreesboro.