Forrest rolls through tourney, captures 2nd Class A title

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The 2014-2015 Class A state champion Forrest Lady Rockets display the title plaque after beating Knoxville Grace. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Lady Rockets won the Class A state softball title on Friday, beating Knoxville Grace Christian School, 7-3, at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's Spring Fling at Murfreesboro.

"This couldn't have happened to a better group. They are the most fun group I have ever worked with, and they have just worked hard and had great chemistry," said Forrest coach Becky Cheatham.

"We have had four senior leaders that just did what they needed to do, so I just couldn't be happier for them."

It was the second state championship for Forrest, with the first coming in 2008, but under a very different set of circumstances.

Sweet victory

"This is sweeter; it's sweeter," Cheatham said. "All of them are fun, but I knew the feelings they were going to have in accomplishing their goals, and when it ended, I just sat back and watched for a couple of seconds there just to have that feeling of gratification for them."

Forrest went 37-7 seven years ago and had to scratch and claw to the end, coming out of the losers' bracket to beat Trinity Christian Academy twice over the final two days.

"This was the first time to show up in the winners' bracket without going through the losers' bracket, and that was a good feeling," said Cheatham.

The Forrest Lady Rockets were fired up before beating Knoxville Grace 7-3 in the Class A title game at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's Spring Fling at Murfreesboro on Friday.

"I talked to them this morning and couple of them were uptight, so I told them, let's just enjoy this when we can."

Domination

In 2015, the Lady Rockets (35-5) dominated the event and the season, sweeping four games at the Spring Fling to win the title, posting an undefeated record at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill, an unblemished mark against Class A schools, and finishing the championship campaign with 18 wins in a row.

"I've been dreaming about this since eighth grade and five years later, we got the job done," said Katie Warrick.

"It's so surreal. We worked so hard for what we wanted. We never gave up and we went right after it."

Forrest was ranked No. 1 on CoachT.com, a website devoted to high school sports in Tennessee, for much of the season. It also had the hardest strength and success ranking in Class A according to the same source.

Thrilling time

"I could not be more thrilled for not only these players and coaches, but our fan base, our parents, our supporters in the county, whether it be travel teams or all-stars, whoever had a hand in it," said Forrest athletic director Scott Delk.

"This was not a four-game series. You don't do this in four games. It's been in the making for 30 years."

Knoxville Grace was second to Forrest in both categories.

After a dramatic 10-inning win on Thursday night versus the Lady Rams, Forrest was in the driver's seat as Grace Christian had to play at 9 a.m. in the loser's bracket final on Friday.

The Lady Rams, who finished runners-up to Gordonsville last year, beat Sale Creek 4-0 in the game and had a few hours break before the title tilt.

First at-bat

Forrest batted first and scored with two outs when Warrick walked and was substituted on the first base bag by freshman courtesy runner Rickee Gayle Carter.

Rickee Gayle Carter, who scored two runs in the championship game, is congratulated by her teammates after scoring in the first inning.

Carter promptly stole second base, but the inning seemed to be over when Samantha King hit a pop-up in foul territory. However, that pop fly was dropped by the Grace Christian catcher.

King took advantage of the mistake, drilling an RBI double to left field off Lady Rams' starting hurler Jessica Webb.

Grace Christian came right back, tying the game in the bottom of the first on a Webb RBI double.

Warrick, who went the distance in the circle for Forrest, held the Lady Rams in check over the next four innings.

Two more scores

Senior Briar Mays had the game changing two-run triple in the second inning.

While Warrick kept Grace Christian scoreless, the Lady Rockets surged ahead, scoring twice in the top of the second when Briar Mays delivered a two-out triple with two runners on base, making it a 3-1 contest.

"Getting that lead always helps, and we just kept putting pressure on them and got as many runs as we could to keep them off us," said Mays.

"This was ours. It was us. We deserved it, and I have wanted this since I was nine years old. It's all I wanted."

Forrest added two more runs in the third inning on RBI base hits by King and Kelsie Darnell.

Carter spearheaded another small-ball run in the top of the fourth when she ran for Warrick after another base on balls.

Carter swiped second base, went to third on a passed ball and trotted home on a fielder's choice RBI by King.

Final run

Forrest scored its final run of the season when Kiyoko Puca led off the top of the sixth inning with a single, Warrick walked for the third time in the game, Lainey Mays singled to load the bases and Brothers knocked in Puca with an RBI base hit, making it 7-1.

In the bottom of the inning, Forrest got a little sloppy on defense as it committed three errors that resulted in two Grace Christian runs, but when it needed the stellar defensive performance shown all year, it returned on an inning-ending, 1-6-3 double-play.

"That right there was the way we have acted all season, When somebody had a bad day or bad at-bat, they would get together and say I got your back, so I knew we were confident then that we had it, said Cheatham.

"Now they all have memories that will last for a lifetime, so just wonderful for them."

Much of the Chapel Hill community came out to support the Lady Rockets the entire week at Murfreesboro.

And it's over!

After Forrest did not score in the top of the seventh, two groundouts to Warrick in the circle preceded Puca catching the final out of game, clinching the state title for the Lady Rockets.

"I don't even have an emotion right now,. They are so jumbled up, I just can't explain this feeling to you honestly," said Puca.

"I'm sure other teams have had this feeling before, but I never had this. I wanted to be a Lady Rocket since sixth grade and wanted to win the state championship and that is what happened."

Forrest 122 101 0-7 11 3

Knoxville Grace 100 002 0-3 5 3

Forrest: Savannah Brothers 3-for-4, Briar Mays 2-for-5, Lainey Mays 2-for-4, Kiyoko Puca 1-for-5, Samantha King 1-for-3, Jordan Yelensky 1-for-4, Kelsie Darnell 1-for-3.

RBI: Briar Mays 2, Samantha King 2, Savannah Brothers 1, Jordan Yelensky 1, Kelsie Darnell 1.

Knoxville Grace: Rachel Lett 2-for-3, Kristen Hunt 1-for-3, Bethany Hunt 1-for-3, Jessica Webb 1-for-3.

RBI: Rachel Lett 2, Jessica Webb 1.

WP: Katie Warrick

LP: Jessica Webb