Resilient Lady Rockets fight back

Monday, May 23, 2016
Forrest coach Becky Cheatham lights an early fire under the Lady Rockets before they went on to beat Columbia Academy 9-5 in a Class A sectional game Saturday at Columbia. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Lady Rockets thrive on adversity.

"We always work on mental toughness and we may be down, but I never feel like we are out," Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said.

Every time they have lost the region title game and went on the road for a sectional contest with a state tournament berth on the line they have won.

Just like before

Five times it has happened and three of those wins have been at Columbia Academy with the latest gut check coming Saturday when Forrest took no prisoners, winning 9-5 over the Lady Bulldogs.

"I am very proud of them with the enthusiasm they brought tonight, because they have bought in and now we are moving on Tuesday," Cheatham said. "It's a great feeling and I'm happy for them and I'm hoping for big things next week."

The defending Class A state champion Lady Rockets are the epitome of excellence as they make their twelfth state tournament appearance in 15 years.

Forrest has claimed two state titles and finished runner-up three times in that time span, but have never won back-to-back championships.


Forrest also held graduation ceremonies Saturday morning, adding to the adversity.

Leadoff hitter Emma Stacey had two hits, two runs scored, two bases on balls and two RBI versus the Lady Bulldogs.

"I was a little reluctant with graduation today and I thought we would be distracted, but I think it all worked in our favor," Cheatham said.

Junior standout Samantha King led the way at CA, picking up the complete game win in the circle, while also dominating at the plate, driving in three runs with a two-run double and a solo homerun.

The Lady Rockets banged out 11 hits off CA ace Shelby Cummins as King, Emma Stacey, Carson Warner and Jasmine Runk all had two hits apiece in the contest.

Ahead to stay

Forrest's Samantha King belts a two-run homer in the second inning that put the Lady Rockets in front for good.

Forrest came up with a first inning run without a hit before Sabrina Gilliam smashed a two-run homer off King in the bottom of the inning.

King bashed a two-run double in the top of third to put Forrest up 3-2 and another unearned run gave Chapel Hill a two-run lead.

After CA failed to score in the bottom of the second, Forrest added a run on a Stacey RBI in the third, but Bailee Thornton got the run back for the Lady Bulldogs with a sacrifice fly RBI in the home half of the stanza.

Amanda Patterson (left) and Kennedy Gillespie celebrate the sectional win after Gillespie tagged out Mary Grace Golden at home plate to end the game.

King led off the top of the fourth inning with a moon shot over the left field fence and Forrest piled on, scoring three more runs on an RBI base knock by Runk, a pinch hit RBI single by eighth-grader Ally Blanton and a run-scoring single by Stacey.

Pitcher does it

Columbia Academy scored one run in the bottom of the fifth inning and there was no scoring by either team in the sixth inning.

Forrest squandered a scoring opportunity in the top of the seventh inning and back-to-back singles by Cummins and Golden to lead off the bottom of the inning put the pressure on King.

King was able to get a pair of outs before a walk loaded the bases for Abigail Thomason, who drilled a single to center field that scored Cummins, but Runk nailed Golden at home plate to end the game and secure the Spring Fling berth for the Lady Rockets.

"Wow!" Cheatham said. "She (King) just hung there, I had confidence in her, I knew how bad she wanted this and she got the job done for us."

Cummins and Golden had three hits apiece for CA, who had a dozen safeties, but left 10 runners on base in the contest.

State field

Forrest (28-9) joins Summertown (27-12-1), Scotts Hill (28-15), Huntingdon (35-8), Silverdale Academy (37-3), Meigs County (36-3), Marion County (34-7) and Midway (28-11) at the state tournament with the Lady Rockets the only one out of the eight participants with a first or second place finish.

"They all know what is expected because we have high expectations and they are never wondering what those expectations are," Cheatham said.

Chapel Hill opens up tournament play tomorrow at 4 p.m. versus a Huntingdon squad it has beaten three times at the Spring Fling with first round wins in 2003 and 2008 and a third round win in 2006 over the Lady Mustangs.

"We will just try to go over there and try get a little better every day offensively as well as defensively and continue to do the same things that got us this far," Cheatham said.

Forrest 131 400 0-9 11 1

Columbia Academy 201 010 1-5 12 4

Columbia Academy: Shelby Cummins 3-for-4, Mary Grace Golden 3-for-4, Kaylee Ray 2-for-3, Sabrina Gilliam 1-for-3, Corinne Shapiro 1-for-4, Brittany Adair 1-for-3, Abigail Thomason 1-for-4

RS: Cummins 2, Ray, Gilliam, Shapiro

BB: Shapiro, Adair

HBP: Shelby Lentz

2B: Golden 2

HR: Gilliam

SAC FLY: Bailee Thornton

RBI: Gilliam 2, Thornton, Adair, Thomason

Forrest: Emma Stacey 2-for-3, Samantha King 2-for-5, Carson Warner 2-for-4, Jasmine Runk: 2-for-5, Jordan Yelensky 1-for-2, Kelsie Darnell 1-for-4, Ally Blanton 1-for-1

RS: Stacey 2, Rickee Gayle Carter 2, Amanda Patterson, King, Yelensky, Brooke Paul, Runk

BB: Yelensky 3, Stacey 2, Patterson, Paul

2B: King

HR: King

FC: Warner

SAC BUNT: Piper Elmore

RBI: King 3, Stacey 2, Warner, Runk, Blanton

WP: Samantha King (7IP, 12H, 5R, 5ER, 1K, 2BB)

LP: Shelby Cummins