Defending state champions open with win

Friday, March 18, 2016
Forrest freshman catcher Kennedy Gillespie tags out Cascade's Kristen Heath at home in the first inning to finish off a 5-3-2 double play. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Having the target on your back is a good thing because it means everyone is chasing your success and that was the case for the defending Class A state champion Forrest Lady Rockets, who took Cascade's best shot before disposing of the Lady Champions 5-3 in Tuesday night's season opener at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill.

"We didn't even think about that, this is a New Year and I have told them already to put that stuff behind them because nobody cares. All that means is that you have a target on your back," Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said. "We have to work to get better because as you know, we are minus four good seniors from last year and we have to have somebody step up and fill their britches."

Pitcher vs. pitcher

It was a pitcher's duel as both teams combined for just eight hits in the game with Forrest getting five against Brooke Sudduth and Cascade managing three hits off two Lady Rockets' hurlers.

Samantha King started in the circle for Forrest and picked up the win, going 3 2/3 innings before freshman Lauren Gillespie came on and tossed 3 1/3 innings of no-hit ball, shutting down Cascade the rest of the way to earn a save.

Freshman southpaw Lauren Gillespie came to the circle in relief in fourth inning and slammed the door on Cascade.

"I was pleased that our freshman pitcher (Gillespie) came in and got some experience and I'm sure that will help build her confidence," Cheatham said.

King gave up three runs (one earned) on three hits and struck out two, hit one and walked four Cascade batters.

First-game jitters

Forrest had two errors in the game and Cascade did not make a fielding mistake.

"We had some of that first game jitters I think and we had a tough time working through that, but we did get through it, so I'm pleased," Cheatham said. "We played fairly well defensively, but I wasn't happy with those two errors we had, so we have got to get back to work to get better."

Brooke Sudduth pitched well for Cascade as the freshman went the distance, giving up all five earned runs on five Forrest hits, while walking three and hitting three Lady Rockets in the contest.

Kristen Heath led off the game with a double for Cascade and went to third on grounder back to the circle before the Forrest defense pulled off a 5-3-2 double play to end the inning.

Hit by pitches

Kelsie Darnell and Jasmine Runk were both hit by Sudduth pitches to start the home half of the first inning and King followed with a base on balls to load the sacks full of Lady Rockets.

A force out at home on the next play for the first out was followed by another hit batsman on Amanda Patterson, scoring Runk and Piper Elmore made it 2-0 on a sacrifice fly to right field.

Brooke Paul drills a two-run double in the bottom of the third inning, putting the Lady Rockets up for good.

There was no more scoring until the bottom of the third inning when King knocked in one with a double and Paul drove in two more runs on a two-out laser to the gap in left/center field, making it 5-0.

After a routine ground out to Paul in the top of the fourth inning, Cascade mounted a comeback, scoring three runs on two hits, a Forrest error, two walks and a hit by pitch.

Abi Jones and Heath had RBI in the frame that ended when Gillespie came on and retired Bailey Sudduth on a grounder back to the circle with the bases loaded.

The Lady Champions threatened one more time, getting two runners on base with one out in the top of the seventh before Paul made a diving catch on a pop-up and the game ended on a fly ball to right fielder Rickee Gayle Carter.

"It was a very good game and I think the team as a whole will be OK," Cheatham said. "We just have to work harder."

Runk had two hits, a base on balls and scored twice for Forrest and Emma Stacey scored two runs as a courtesy runner.

"Jasmine Runk was on base three times and as I told them, it is not always about a batting average, it's your on base percentage because you have to be on base to score runs," Cheatham said. "Jasmine stepped up and I am pleased with what she is doing."

Patterson had two walks, scored a run and drove home one and King, Jordan Yelensky and Paul had one hit apiece.

Heath, Katelyn Jarrell and Abi Jones had one hit apiece for Cascade.

Cascade 000 300 0-3 3 0

Forrest 203 000 X-5 5 2

Forrest: Jasmine Runk 2-3, Samantha King 1-2, Jordan Yelensky 1-3, Brooke Paul 1-3.

RBI: Paul 2, Amanda Patterson 1.

Cascade: Kristen Heath 1-3, Katelyn Jarrell 1-4, Abbi Jones 1-3.

RBI: Heath 1, Brooke Sudduth 1, Keeley Sutton 1.

WP: Samantha King

Save: Lauren Gillespie

LP: Brooke Sudduth