Rockets take season opener over Eagles

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Ethan Mealer picked up the win for the Rockets, who outlasted Summertown 4-3 at Chapel Hill Monday night.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

Forrest’s 2016-2017 season ended with a 5-3 loss to Summertown in the Class A sectional round and the Rockets got a small measure of revenge in Monday night’s season opener via a hard fought 4-3 win over the Eagles at Chapel Hill.

“We ended the season last year playing this team and came back and opened up with them this year again,” Forrest coach Bart Joyce said. “That’s a great ballclub, coach (Jason) Burleson and Summertown always have a great team.”

“They always have a great team, it’s a good team to play, a good team to open up with and good competition.”

Pitching was the name of the game for the Rockets on a cold, blustery evening as Ethan Mealer picked up the win, tossing the first four innings in which the Forrest ace gave up three runs on three hits, while striking out seven, walking three, and hitting one Summertown batter.

“I thought the pitching was good, we could keep the pitch count down a little bit, but Mealer had command around the plate and kept them off the bases,” Joyce said. “He did a great job.”

Grayson Whaley came to the hill in the top of the fifth and closed the door with three shutout innings to pick up the save.

“Whaley did a great job, he came in and did what he was supposed to do, coming in a tight spot and keeping us in the ballgame,” Joyce said.

Whaley did not allow a hit or walk a batter in his three-inning stint and gutted his way out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning by whiffing the final two Summertown hitters to end the game.

Jaylen Smith had two hits and two runs scored in the Rockets’ 4-3 opening day win over Summertown.

Jaylen Smith led the Rockets at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a stolen base and Dustin Brashear also had two hits in the contest and drove in one run.

Whaley had two hits in three at bats, including Forrest’s only extra base hit with a third inning double.

“All the way through the lineup there we put it in play tonight and got runs across early when we needed them,” Joyce said. “It was kind of a team effort there to get those runs across early and get the win.”

Mealer drove home the eventual game-winner with a sacrifice fly in the third inning and Blaize Sweeney got things going early for the Rockets with a two-run single in the bottom of the first inning.

Blaize Sweeney drills a two-run single in the first inning.

Mealer set down the side in order in the top of the first inning on three groundouts before the Rockets posted two runs on Sweeney’s double RBI base knock.

Lane Burleson led off the top of the second inning with a base hit for Summertown and a Forrest fielding error put runners on first and second base with no outs before Mealer got the next three outs on a groundout and two strikeouts.

With two outs and one on in the top of the third inning, Mealer lost his control and proceeded to issue a pair of walks bookending a hit batsman that made it a 2-1 ballgame.

Smith led off the bottom of the inning with a single and went to second on a wild pitch before scoring on a Brashear single to left field.

Dustin Brashear touches home plate for the Rockets’ fourth and final run in the bottom of the third inning.

A wild pitch sent Brashear to second and a passed ball moved the Forrest first baseman to third before he scored on Mealer’s fly ball RBI to right field.

Mealer struck out the first Summertown batter in the top of the fourth inning before a base on balls and a fielding error put Eagle runners on first and third.

Jesse Mattox stole second and after Mealer got a Summertown strikeout, pinch hitter Jase Ambrose drilled a two-run single to right field to make it a 4-3 contest.

Mealer struck out Kolter Houser to end the inning and the Rockets went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame.

Whaley came to the hill in the top of the fifth and the Rockets made a one-out error that was erased on a 9-3 double play when Sweeney snared a line drive in right field and gunned to Brashear at first for the double bubble.

The Rockets had a runner thrown at home in the bottom of the fifth and Whaley set down the Eagles in order in the top of the sixth inning.

The game went to the top of the seventh and Whaley drilled Drew Bailey to lead off the inning and a Forrest error put runners on first and second with no outs.

Whaley got a 4-6 fielder’s choice for the first out, but hit Burleson to load the sacks before rearing back to whiff the next two Eagles’ hitters to end the game.

“Whaley fought his way back through it and stayed on the plate,” Joyce said. “They had a couple of great at bats there where they battle, battled, battled and he got the job done.”

Summertown 001 200 0-3 3 3

Forrest 202 000 X-4 8 2

Summertown: Lane Burleson1-for-2, Jesse Mattox 1-for-3, Jase Ambrose 1-for-1.

RBI: Ambrose 2, Burleson.

RS: Mattox 2, Logan Parrott.

BB: Koltar Houser, Huckaba, Parrott.

HBP: Burleson 2, Drew Bailey.

FC: Houser.

SB: Mattox 2.

ROE: Burleson 2, Ashtin Lacey, Mattox.

SB: Mattox 2.

LP: Logan Parrott.

Forrest: Jaylen Smith 2-for-3, Dustin Brashear 2-for-3, Grayson Whaley 2-for-3, Blaize Sweeney 1-for-3, Drew Daughrity 1-for-3.

RBI: Sweeney 2, Brashear, Ethan Mealer.

RS: Smith 2, Brashear, JT Ferguson.

2B: Whaley.

SAC FLY: Mealer.

ROE: Ferguson.

SB: Smith.

WP: Ethan Mealer (4IP, 3H, 3R, 2ER, 3BB, 7K).

Save: Grayson Whaley (3IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K).