Forrest within 2 wins of title
MURFREESBORO--Forrest had much to lose on Wednesday at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Spring Fling.
The youthful Sale Creek Lady Panthers, making its first state tournament appearance in 33 years did not, taking the field at the Class A State Softball Tournament with one senior, one junior and the rest eighth-grade upstarts.
"There was no give up in them," said Forrest coach Becky Cheatham. "I felt like they were the sort of team that was up and down and I told the girls before the game that they would be that tonight and they were, but they just couldn't get their bats going, thanks to a great performance by Katie (Warrick) and some great defense behind her."
Not yet understanding the pressure of the big stage, Sale Creek earned its way to a second round match-up versus one of the most experienced Forrest squads ever and played the Lady Rockets tough."
The Lady Rockets have stumbled in the second round in previous years, but were determined not to let it happen this time in their quest for a second state title.
"We had this talk last night that it was important to stay in the winner's bracket and we were able to do that," said Cheatham.
In the end, experience paid off as the Lady Rockets stuck to their game plan of putting the pressure of the small ball attack on Sale Creek's shoulders and it eventually resulted in a 6-1 win.
Staying the course
"We were off to a slow start today for some reason, I don't what the problem was," said Cheatham.
"But, they were able to overcome it and I am very proud of their intensity and their ability to stay in the game until we were able to get some runs," said Cheatham.
Added to the small ball plan was a huge defensive effort by Forrest and Katie Warrick's 51st career home run in the fifth inning that was the deciding blow.
Warrick also turned in a solid performance in the circle, picking up the complete game win as the senior standout gave up one earned run on four hits, striking out one and walking one Lady Panthers' batter.
"It was very intense, but I kept my composure and I had confidence in my team that we would come through," Warrick said.
Briar Mays, who reached base all four times she came up for Forrest, led off the bottom of the first inning with a base hit and was sacrificed to second by Kiyoko Puca.
Mays went to third on a ground ball out before scoring on a passed ball.
Sale Creek threatened in the top of the second, but was thwarted by its own mistake when an obstruction call at second base turned into an inning-ending double play.
With one out in the bottom of the third inning, Mays and Puca banged back-to-back singles before Warrick laced an RBI double to center field, making it a 2-0 contest.
There was no scoring in the fourth inning, but in the top of the fifth Sale Creek mounted a comeback when Sydney Poe knocked a double into left field for the Lady Panthers' first hit off Warrick.
"They had some fight in them for sure, they put the ball in play, but we kept making good plays on defense," said Warrick.
Two batters later, Micah McCombs drove in Poe with a base hit to center field, cutting Forrest's lead in half at 2-1.
Warrick got out the jam on a grounder back to circle and in the bottom of the inning, Briar Mays and Puca put together back-to-back singles again before Warrick drilled a three-run home run to give Forrest a four-run lead.
"I wasn't expecting them to pitch me inside because that's my strong point, but they did," said Warrick.
Big double play
The Lady Panthers responded with a pair of base hits in the top of the sixth inning, putting runners on first an third with one out before a hot grounder back to Warrick turned into an inning ending, 1-6-3 double play.
Forrest added another small ball run in the bottom of the sixth inning as a steady rain began to fall and in the top of the seventh Warrick single-handedly put the game away on two grounders back to the circle and a game ending, line-drive out.
"Everybody contributed tonight, whether it was in the dugout or on the field. It was good tonight," said Warrick.
With the win, Forrest advanced to the winner's bracket final versus Knoxville Grace, who defeated Marion County 7-5 to remain unbeaten in the tournament as well.
"It's going to a game for sure and we have to come with our playing pants on, because they will give us a run for our money," said Cheatham.
Sale Creek 000 010 0-1 4 0
Forrest 101 031 x-6 10 1
Sale Creek: Mary Vandergriff 1-for-3, McKenna Morgan 1-for-3, Sydney Poe 1-for-3, Micah McCombs 1-for-2.
RBI: Micah McCombs
Forrest: Briar Mays 2-for-2, Kiyoko Puca 2-for-2, Katie Warrick 2-for-3, Lainey Mays 2-for-3, Samantha King 1-for-2, Amanda Patterson 1-for-3.
RBI: Katie Warrick 3, Kiyoko Puca 1.
WP: Katie Warrick
LP: McKenna Morgan