Rockets eek out sectional win
There wasn't much offense, but there was plenty of excitement Friday night at Chapel Hill as the Rockets eked out a 2-0 win over upstart Grace Christian Academy (Franklin) in a Class A sectional contest that earned Forrest a state tournament berth for the second time in three years and the third in school history.
"I'm very proud of the boys, they fought hard throughout that entire game," Forrest coach Bart Joyce said. "We knew one, two or three runs would get the job done and they just kept fighting hard."
Forrest finished second in 2006 and lost their first two games in the tournament in 2013.
Pitchers square off
It was a classic pitcher's duel Friday night as Forrest senior and District 9-A Co-Pitcher of the Year Ryan Yelensky squared off with Grace Christian freshman southpaw Austin Kasick.
"I'm very proud of him (Yelensky) and I think the experience factor really kicked in tonight," Joyce said. "That was a heck of a job by that kid to lead us in this sub-state game."
Both hurlers went the distance as Yelensky gave up two hits and struck out 10, while Kasick surrendered just two runs (one earned) on three hits, while whiffing eight and walking two Forrest batters.
"This feels amazing, it's indescribable right now and it's awesome," Yelensky said. "My game plan coming in was just go straight at them, they were a young team and a little bit inexperienced so I was going to use that against them."
The difference in the contest was three errors by the Lions that allowed both Forrest runs to cross home plate.
The Rocket jack rabbit on the base paths was senior Austin Welty, who scampered home with a run in the first inning and another in the sixth inning.
"I just knew I had to be aggressive and when the coach gives me the green light, it is my job to get to the next base and get a run in," Welty said. "Whenever you have a great pitcher like Yelensky it makes all of our jobs easier."
Yelensky struck out the side in the top of the first inning and Welty was hit by a Kasick pitch with one down in the bottom of the frame.
In to score
After a strikeout for the second out, Kasick tried to pickoff Welty at first, but the throw was wild and Welty scampered to third base before scoring on the second error on the play.
The Lions threatened in the second inning as Martin Cash led off with a base on balls and Calvin Berger followed with a base hit to left field.
Yelensky struck out the next batter and Forrest came up with some serious leather on the next two plays as the second out came on a pretty scoop at first base by Landen Jones before the inning ended on a nice catch in center field by Jacob Jones.
"My defense was superb, they had my back as they always do and made plays everywhere," Yelensky said.
Few reach base
Both hurlers settled in for some dominance as they allowed just four base runners combined thru the fifth inning.
With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Grace Christian's Gavin Ford tripled to right field to fire up the travelling Franklin crowd.
Yelensky got the next batter on a short fly to Slayton Wild in left field before an inning ending strikeout squashed the Lions' comeback attempt.
Forest made a very bad base running boo-boo in the bottom of the inning that momentarily halted an insurance run attempt, but once again Welty bailed the Rockets out when he scored from third base on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
Yelensky had little trouble in the seventh, allowing a hit batsman to reach with one out before recording his 10th strikeout for the second out and JT Ferguson squeezed the final out on a fly ball to right field, sending the Rockets to the Spring Fling at Murfreesboro.
"We have unfinished business," Welty said. "We have high expectations here and we are not going to accept anything less than a ring."
Forrest (26-6) joins Loretto (37-7), Meigs County (23-10), Knoxville Grace (29-13), Goodpasture (28-9), Gordonsville (15-19), Scotts Hill (22-11) and Jackson Christian (29-12) in the Class A bracket.
The Rockets open up versus two-time state champion Jackson Christian at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Riverdale High School.
The only teams with state titles in the bracket is Goodpasture with eight crowns and Knoxville Grace, who are the defending state champions with one.
"We are going to take it one game at a time," Joyce said. "We are going back to work next week for the new season that begins on Tuesday."
Grace Christian 000 000 0-0 2 3
Forrest 100 001 x-2 3 0
Grace Christian: Gavin Ford 1-for-2, Calvin Berger 1-for-3
BB: Martin Cash
3B: Gavin Ford
HBP: Gavin Ford, Kolby Alonzo
SB: Gavin Ford
Forrest: Ryan Yelensky 1-for-3, Austin Welty 1-for-2, Slayton Wild 1-for-1
RS: Welty 2
BB: Alex Brewer, Jonathan Lykins
PIK: Jaylen Smith
WP: Ryan Yelensky (7IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 10K, 1BB)
LP: Austin Kasick (6IP, 3H, 2R, 1ER, 8K, 2BB)