Lady Rockets take down defending champs
After a long day of rain delays at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Spring Fling Championships, the Forrest Lady Rockets met the defending Class A state champion Meigs County Lady Tigers in a damp and chilly late night battle to remain in the winner’s bracket.
A huge throng of travelling Chapel Hill fans witnessed one of the most exciting games in the long history of Forrest softball as Lady Rockets’ senior and Motlow State Community College signee Samantha King outdueled Meigs County ace and UT commit Ashley Rogers in the circle for a 2-1 win.
“Sam had an outstanding game, we held them down to one run and they didn’t get that one run until late, so it was a great team effort,” Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said. “I told them before the game that if we put the ball in play, we will score somehow, someway.”
“We only got two runs, but guess what, that’s all that matters when they just got one.”
King and Rogers tossed a 1-2-3 first innings before the Lady Tigers rallied in the top of the second inning, starting with a Madison Crabtree leadoff double.
Lindsey Ward followed with a blooper base hit to left field, putting Meigs County runners on the corners.
Jade Meadows grounded to Laura Mealer at shortstop, who looked Crabtree back to third before firing to first baseman Kennedy Gillespie for the first out, but Ward advanced to second on the play.
King came up with huge strikeout over Alyson Crowder and then induced a fly ball to Katlin Leverette in left to end the inning.
Rogers, who pitched a no-hitter on Tuesday, continued her unhittable stretch through the third inning, striking out five out of the six Forrest batters she faced in the time span.
King was just as dominant, setting down six Lady Tigers in a row after the scare in the top of the second inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Leverette legged out an infield single to leadoff the stanza and Jasmine Runk came to the plate and laid down a perfect bunt to beat a Rogers’ wild throw to first that allowed Leverette to advance to third base.
Runk swiped second base before Carson Warner hit a grounder to first, scoring Leverette on the fielder’s choice RBI to make it 1-0.
Rogers got King to pop-up to third base for the second out before eighth-grader Laura Mealer came through with some more post-season magic, beating out an infield hit that plated Runk for a 2-0 lead.
Meigs County fought back as Kassidy Kennedy and Arika Reed banged back-to-back one out singles in the top of the fifth inning, but a fly ball to Anna Blanton in right for the second out was followed by a laser shot to second baseman Kayla Gillespie to end the threat.
Anna Blanton beat out an infield single in the bottom of the inning and Emma Stacey sacrificed Blanton to second before Rogers struck out the next Forrest batter to stop another Chapel Hill scoring opportunity.
Rogers reached on a Forrest error to start the sixth inning, but fate was on the Lady Rockets’ side when King grabbed a line drive back to the circle and tossed to Kennedy Gillespie at first for a double play.
“That was huge,” Cheatam said. “She (Rogers) got too big of a lead off first and it was hit too hot back to Sam and we managed to get that double play that took the wind out of their sails.”
King whiffed Ward to end the inning and Forrest did not score in the top of the seventh, leaving Forrest three outs away from busting Meigs County’s 19-game winning streak.
Runk grabbed a fly ball in center field for the first out in the top of the seventh before Crowder drilled a solo homerun over the left field fence to ruin King’s shutout attempt.
Undaunted, King bounced back with a grounder to Mealer at short for the second out and finished the game in style, whiffing Reed to notch the 40th win of the season for the two-time Spring Fling champs and improve the program’s all-time state tournament mark to 32-27.
“That showed that we will not give in and not give up, it’s that mentality, it’s that simple,” Cheatham stated.
It was only the sixth time this season that a Meigs’ opponent has scored more than two runs off Rogers, who has 25 shutouts in the campaign and surrenders a measly 0.7 runs per game.
“We knew she was going to be tough, but we know we can put the ball in play,” Cheatham said. “They just came in here hyped up and ready to go and refused to lose.”
Forrest (40-4) and Summertown (34-8), the only two undefeated teams left in the tournament meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight in a winner’s bracket contest, while Meigs (36-3) plays an early morning loser’s bracket contest versus Scott’s Hill (32-6), who eliminated Unaka 10-0 on Wednesday.
“I want us to stay on an even keel, keep our mind on business and work towards our goal,” Cheatham said. “
Goodpasture (22-12) and Jackson Christian School (22-15-1) meet in the other loser’s bracket final.
Meigs County 000 000 1-1 6 2
Forrest 000 200 X-2 4 1
Meigs County: Ashley Rogers 1-for-3, Madison Crabtree 1-for-3, Lindsey Ward 1-for-2, Alyson Crowder 1-for-3, Kassidy Kenny 1-for-3, Arika Reed 1-for-3
E: Rogers, Kaylie Moore
LP: Ashley Rogers (6IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 10K, 0BB)
Forrest: Katlin Leverette 1-for-3, Jasmine Runk 1-for-3, Laura Mealer 1-for-3, Anna Blanton 1-for-2
RBI: Carson Warner, Mealer
RS: Leverette, Runk
SAC: Emma Stacey
SB: Zoe Long, Runk
E: Katlin Leverette
DP: Kennedy Gillespie, Samantha King
WP: Samantha King (7IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 4K, 1BB)