Forrest cruises to claim third consecutive region title
When it comes to Eagleville versus Forrest at any sport the competition is always fierce.
During the 2017 baseball season the competition has been extra stiff as the two schools located just over nine miles apart have met five times with no game being decided by less than three runs.
On Wednesday night the District 9A rivals met for the sixth time with the Region 5A championship on the line with the winner gaining the advantage of hosting a home game in the sectional round of the state tournament.
And despite multiple games for the ages during the regular season and district tournament, the Rockets (23-11-1) jumped all over the Eagles (19-17) early and coasted to an anticlimactic 12-1 win to clinch the Region 5A crown.
"Never would have dreamed that this would have happened this way tonight," Rocket coach Bart Joyce stated. "Obviously I'm super proud of the way these boys played and the effort they had. This makes the sixth time we've played (Eagleville) and there hasn't been a game like this. We won one game on a suicide squeeze and had one 13 inning ballgame."
"We are so evenly matched and I never thought this would happen, but the way they played tonight, that effort was just tremendous," Joyce continued. "Our coaching staff is super proud of these boys and going into Friday night, this is a good path to be on."
The Rockets face longtime rival Summertown, in its fifth sectional appearance in a row with a chance to advance to the TSSAA State Tournament for the third time in four years.
Forrest is 2-2 in sectional games over the past four seasons, beating Grace Christian Academy 2-0 at home last year and in 2014, the Rockets travelled to Summertown and came away with a dramatic 3-2 win via an Alex Brewer three-run homerun in the top of the seventh.
Both of the Rockets’ sectional losses in the time span came at home to Cornersville on a pair of pitching gems by David Looney in 2013 and 2015.
The Rockets started Jonathan Lykins on the mound and despite facing two runners on in the second inning and a bases loaded situation in the third, Lykins managing to pick up the win by only allowing one run to score and striking out three over three innings of work.
"We kept the intensity up in the dugout and we just kept on hitting their pitcher and that's what kept us in the ballgame," Lykins said. "(The lead after the first) made me feel great because I know that we have the runs to make a few mistakes, but not a lot.”
“We came back out and got more runs and could make a few more mistakes and still have the lead. But we shouldn't make those mistakes, because we have a solid defense and a solid pitching staff."
The Eagles came up empty to start the game and the Rockets went right to work in the bottom of the first with Dylan Eady, Ethan Mealer and Ryan Moses all picking up an RBI as the Rockets led big at 7-0, heading into the second inning.
The Eagles picked up steam to start the inning but Lykins got hot, striking out three straight Eagleville batters to end the threat.
The Rockets continued to punish Eagleville pitcher Mitchell Burris in the second inning with Dustin Brashear starting off the frame with a single and Lykins drawing a walk, before Eady picked up his second RBI of the night with a single into right field to push the lead to 8-0.
Mealer picked up another RBI with a ground out to first base before Jaylen Smith brought home Eady for the 10th and final run of the inning.
Lykins ran into trouble in the top of the third when Matthew Boyett hit a single into left to load up the bases before Jonah Clemet brought the only Eagle run of the game home with a deep sac fly out to center field.
"What's going through my head (with the bases loaded) is I'm mostly just trying to throw strikes and mostly trying to strike them out so they can't hit," Lykins explained. "But if they do get a hit, at least get weak ground balls or pop-ups so the defense can catch it."
The defense did just that as Lykins pitched around the jam and forced Ryan Wells into a lazy pop-up into right field to end the rally and the inning with minimal damage done.
The Rockets’ bats continued to stay hot in the third with a Luke Cunningham single to start the inning and a Brashear ground rule double to move both base runners into scoring position.
Lykins pushed a single into in left field to bring home Cunningham and Moses brought home to final Rocket run of the game with a ground out to shortstop that allowed Brashear to cross the plate and increase the lead to 12-1.
The Eagles had one last run in the fourth as three Eagleville batters started off the inning with singles off Brashear in relief, but Mealer nipped the rally in the bud by catching a line drive and touching third base for the double play before Isaac Gleaves popped out to center field to end the inning.
Jordan Jent came on for the Rockets in the fifth and final inning and sat down the first two Eagle batters and pitched around an Ethan Cobb single to center to end the game and claim the championship on an Austin Wells pop-up to the third base.
The Eagles lost a close 7-5 contest to Loretto Wednesday night and travel to Forrest in Friday night’s Class A sectional contest
The two teams split a pair of regular season game earlier in the year.
"Will we prepare the way we always do," Joyce said. "Take it one game at a time and get the boys ready to play. They know what they have to do. They've been here before, they've been in this game. Hopefully they'll be ready to go."
Eagleville 001 00-1 11 3
Forrest 732 0X-12 12 1
Eagleville: Blake Brewer 3-for-3, Ethan Cobb 3-for-3, Austin Wells 1-for-3, Matthew Boyett 1-for-3, Cade Herdon 1-for-2, Blake Joyner 1-for-2, Jonah Clement 1-for-3
RS: Austin Wells
FC: Issac Gleaves 2, Boyett
E: Clement, Herdon, Joyner
DP: Issac Gleaves, Kobe Timberlake, Tapp
LP: Cade Herdon
Forrest: Luke Cunningham 2-for-3, Dustin Brashear 2-for-3, Ethan Mealer 2-for-3, Jaylen Smith 2-for-3, JT Ferguson 1-for-4, Jonathan Lykins 1-for-2, Dylan Eady 1-for-3, Jacob Jones 1-for-3
RBI: Jones 2, Eady 2, Mealer 2, Moses 2, Ferguson 2, Smith, Lykins
BB: Lykins, Moses
RS: Cunningham 2, Brashear 2, Lucas Welch 2, Brett Burnham, Moses, Eady, Mealer, Smith, Jones
ROE: Jones, Lykins, Brashear
SB: Welch 2, Jones, Smith
WP: Jonathan Lykins (3IP, 7H, 1R, 1ER, 3K, 0BB), Dustin Brashear (1IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 0K, 0BB), Jordan Jent (1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0K, 0BB)