King corrals CA, Lady Rockets return to Spring Fling
For the second time in as many seasons the Forrest Lady Rockets and Columbia Academy Lady Bulldogs squared off in Columbia for a chance to claim a sectional victory and advance to the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s Spring Fling State Championships at Murfreesboro.
Lady Bulldog pitcher Brittany Adair gave up a minuscule four hits over seven innings to the Lady Rockets, but Forrest senior pitcher Samantha King ruled the sophomore ace in the circle by giving up just one hit, while racking up a game-high nine strikeouts for the complete game 4-0 win.
"I know that we had to get better at practice after Wednesday (2-1 loss at East Robertson) and just focus hard and just visualize--as Mrs. Cheatham says,” King, who also picked up a hit and walk to score two of the four Forrest runs, said. "I knew we had it in us and we were probably gonna get the win."
The Lady Rockets advance to the state tournament for the 13th time in 16 seasons including the past six in a row.
Forrest, who won the 2007-2008 and 2015-2016 Class A State Championship and played in the championship game in 2001-2002, 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, will travel to the Spring Fling one last time to play for the crown in the smallest classification before moving up to AA in 2018.
And while most championship teams are more often than not built around a strong nucleus of upperclassmen, the Lady Rockets won the sectional contest on the back of an eighth-grade prospect playing well above her years.
Laura Ann Mealer ended the 0-0 stalemate in the top of the fifth inning with a two-run line drive home run blast over the center field wall to give Forrest the lead for good and then delivered a security RBI in the top of the seventh with a single into right field before crossing the plate on a Columbia Academy throwing error for the 4-0 final.
"The game plan tonight was to wear that pitcher down and make her pitch to our strength," Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said. "We knew that she was gonna be strong for probably the first four innings.”
“We had a game plan in place for when we got on base and I think you saw that unfold. They executed like we asked them to do."
The Lady Bulldogs gave up a strong chance to get on the board first as freshman right fielder Bailee Luna picked up the only CA hit of the contest before Mary Grace Golden laid down a perfect bunt to advance Luna to second.
Cheatham challenged the call and the bunt was subsequently called foul before King sat down Golden swinging.
The Bulldogs were on the wrong end of more unfortunate luck on the next play as a would be single hit the baserunner Luna on her way to second base to end the inning.
The pitching duel continued into the fifth inning before Mealer's big hit finally put runs on the board.
King started off the inning drawing a walk before the Lady Rocket eighth-grade standout confidently stepped to the plate and sent the second pitch of the at-bat over the center field wall to give Forrest a slim 2-0 lead.
Adair settled back down and held the Lady Rockets in check for the remainder of the fifth and sixth innings before Mealer struck again.
King got things going again with a leadoff double on a shot to left center that missed home run status by mere inches before Mealer stepped up and placed a single into right field to score King.
Jasmine Runk followed up with a bunt to advance Mealer to third before a bad throw allowed the run to score and push the Forrest lead to 4-0.
King finished the side off in order to end the game and the Lady Rockets (38-4) advanced to the Class A Spring Fling again with their first game scheduled against Whitwell (21-9) yesterday.
The other state tournament participants in Class A are defending champion Meigs County (35-2), Unaka (28-13), Goodpasture (21-11), Scotts Hill (31-5), Summertown (32-8), and Jackson Christian (21-14-1).
Forrest’s 38 wins also ties a school record set in 2001-2002 when the Lady Rockets finished 38-5.
Forrest 000 020 2-4 4 0
Columbia Academy 000 000 0-0 2 1
Forrest: Laura Mealer 2-for-3, Samantha King 1-for-2, Kennedy Gillespie 1-for-3
RBI: Mealer 3
RS: Mealer 2, Jenna Blanton 2
SB: Jenna Blanton
WP: Sam King (7IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 9K, 1BB)