Forrest notches opening round state tournament win
After winning the Class A state title two years ago, the Forrest Lady Rockets suffered back-to-back losses last season to make an early exit from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Spring Fling Championships.
Not at this year’s 24th annual gathering that also includes baseball, soccer, tennis, and track and field.
Forrest opened this year’s tournament versus Whitwell and took down the Lady Tigers from Marion County 5-1 behind a strong pitching performance from Samantha King and some timely hitting when they needed it.
“It took us a little bit, our defense held us in the game until our hitting could get going,” Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said. “I told them before we left that it was all business, we are over here for business and let’s get it done and they did a good job of that tonight.”
King, who picked up her first state tournament win in the circle, gave up one earned run on seven hits, while striking out six and walking zero Whitwell batters.
“It feels great,” said King. “I was confident because I knew if I pitched like I have all year that I would have it and I couldn’t do it without my defense that backed me up.”
Laura Mealer continued to build on her sensational eighth-grade season, going 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
“I was feeling really good tonight and I was really excited to play in my first state tournament game,” Mealer said. “I’m confident that I can hit and just want to do good for my team and win.”
Jasmine Runk and Carson Warner had two hits apiece in the contest with Runk driving in two runs and scoring twice.
The victory also set a school record of 39 wins in a season for Forrest.
King set down nine consecutive Lady Tigers to start the game and Forrest squandered scoring opportunities in the second and third innings before breaking through in the top of the fourth.
King singled to lead off the frame, but her courtesy runner Zoe Long was thrown out on a close play trying to steal second base.
The first out did not phase Mealer, who followed with a base hit to center field before scoring on a Runk triple to right, making it 1-0.
Kayla Gillespie reached on an error before twin sister Kayla also got on base via a Whitwell miscue that scored Runk.
King ruled the circle over the next two innings, setting down the Lady Tigers in order in the fourth inning and striking out three out four batters she faced in the top of the fifth inning.
Whitwell starting pitcher Anna Yell turned in a 1-2-3 top of the sixth and the Lady Tigers threatened in the home half of the inning.
Layla McEwen banged a one out single and stole second base, but on the next play King fielded a ground ball back to the circle and fired to Kayla Gillespie at second to erase the lead runner.
Yell followed with a base hit to center field to put Lady Tiger base runners on the corners before the Lady Rockets threw some leather at Whitwell when Kayla Gillespie made a nice grab in foul territory for the last out.
In the top of the seventh inning, Jenna Blanton reached on an error and Warner followed with a hot shot to third base that could not be played before King moved both runners up one base with a deep fly ball to right field.
Mealer and Runk came through again as the eighth-grader lashed a two-run double and Runk finished the Forrest scoring with an RBI single to right field, making it a 5-0 contest.
King set down the first two Whitwell batters in the bottom of the seventh inning before Raylon Smith and Caitlin Rollins came up with back-to-back singles.
Carley Terry knocked in Smith to make it 5-1, but King induced a ground ball out to Mealer at shortstop to end the game.
Forrest (39-4) faces the defending state champion Meigs County Lady Tigers (36-2) tonight at 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.
“We know about that defending champion business, that’s really hard to do,” Cheatham said. “We are closer to home than they are so we ought to have an advantage.”
Meigs County is on a 19-game winning streak and beat Jackson Christian 9-0 in the opening round behind a no-hit, 16 strikeout game by UT commit Ashley Rogers.
“We are going to watch her for a bit here and see if we can pick up on some tendencies and then we are going to time ourselves to her speed before we come over here tomorrow,” Cheatham said. “Hopefully we can jump on them and not let up, that’s our plan.”
Forrest 000 200 3-5 10 0
Whitwell 000 000 1-1 7 3
Forrest: Laura Mealer 4-for-4, Carson Warner 2-for-4, Jasmine Runk 2-for-4, Samantha King 1-for-4, Kennedy Gillespie 1-for-4
RBI: Runk 2, Mealer 2, Kayla Gillespie
BB: Katlin Leverette
RS: Mealer 2, Runk, Anna Blanton, Jenna Blanton
SAC: Jenna Blanton
ROE: Kayla Gillespie, Kennedy Gillespie, Jenna Blanton
SB: Kennedy Gillespie
CS: Zoe Long
WP: Samantha King (7IP, 7H, 1R, 1ER, 6K, 0BB)
Whitwell: Anna Yell 2-for-3, Layla McEwen 1-for-3, Camryn Haag 1-for-3, Raylon Smith 1-for-3, Caitlin Rollins 1-for-3, Carley Terry 1-for-3
SB: Maddie Jordan
E: Haag 2, McEwen
LP: Anna Yell (7IP, 10H, 5R, 1ER, 1K, 1BB)