Forrest holds off Rebels for fourth straight region title
Even a move up one classification did not slow down the Forrest Rockets, who beat Stewart County 3-2 in the Region 6-AA title game at Chapel Hill Wednesday night to claim their fourth straight region title and fifth in the last six years.
“It was a great ballgame,” Forrest coach Bart Joyce said. “This has kinda been the deal of the whole postseason is those tight one-run ballgames.”
“Our boys never gave up, even when we tied late in the game they kept grinding and kept fighting and they keep reaching their goals.”
Forrest is headed for its sixth consecutive sectional game where they have won two and lost three, including a 5-3 loss to Summertown last year.
“It feels nice, it’s our fourth one, it feels good,” senior Dustin Brashear said. “We have home field advantage now and we are ready to get another win.”
The Rockets (21-15) take on Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School (22-5) at Chapel Hill Friday night with the first pitch slated for 6 p.m. with the winner punching a ticket to the TSSAA Spring Fling state championships next week.
“I’m proud of what these boys have accomplished and hopefully our goal is still to come,” Joyce said. “This is going to be a big ballgame for us and we will roll it out there and see what happens.”
“I want to see it more than anything for this team and this senior class and we have been in that game and fell a little short last year to Summertown and I know the boys want to get there.”
Forrest got an excellent tag team performance on the mound as Dylan Eady started for the Rockets and went 4.2 innings before giving way to Grayson Whaley with one on and two outs in the fifth inning and the game tied 2-2.
Whaley pitched 1.2 innings of one-hit ball to pick up the win and Blaize Sweeney came on to record the final two outs to close the game and pick up the save.
The Forrest pitching staff had the Houdini act working as they escaped the bases loaded twice, including the top of the seventh inning when the Rebs juiced the sacks with one out.
The Rockets had seven hits versus Stewart County starting pitcher Andrew Threatt, who suffered the loss.
Drew Daughrity went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored to lead the Rockets, while J.T. Ferguson (RS), Dylan Eady (RBI), Ryan Moses, Brashear (RBI), Whaley, and Ethan Mealer all had one hit apiece.
Eady retired the Rebels in the first inning and the Rockets put up two crucial early runs in the home half of the inning as Ferguson led off with an infield single before Smith was hit by Threatt pitch.
Eady ripped a single to right field to score Ferguson and Brashear knocked in Smith with a deep fly to center field.
Stewart County went down 1-2-3 in the top of the second and Eady gave up a two-out single to Thorne Gray in the top of the third before Smith fielded a ground ball at shortstop and stepped on second base bag for the unassisted force-out.
The Rockets failed to score in the second and third inning and in the top of the fourth, the Rebels loaded the bases with one out and tried to bunt a run in, but Brashear came up with the defensive play of the game when he made a tough grab and threw home for the force out.
Eady struck out the next batter to end the inning and the Rockets did not score in the home half of the frame.
In the top of the fifth inning Stewart County finally broke through, scoring two runs as Brandon Carroll led off with a base hit and Thorne Gray reached on a Forrest error.
Brandt Bramlett knocked in Carroll with a base hit and Gray scored the tying run as Forrest turned a 6-4-3 double play.
After Eady walked the next batter, Whaley came to the hill and recorded an inning-ending strikeout.
The Rockets came right back as Daughrity led off the bottom of the inning with a double and Ferguson somehow got a sacrifice bunt down on a high pitch before Smith knocked a two-strike pitch to deep right to score Daughrity from third base and give Forrest the lead at 3-2.
“Our whole thing in the postseason is to take it one inning at a time, win that inning and then win the next one and the boys try to keep the momentum swing,” Joyce said. “They do a great job now when we lose that momentum they stay in the middle and they get it back.”
Neither team scored in the sixth inning and Whaley recorded the first out of the seventh with a strikeout, but hit Bramlett with a pitch and walked the next batter before Joyce came to the hill and called Sweeney in from right field to pitch.
Sweeney walked Will Cain on four pitches to load the sacks and threw to more balls to Elijah Smith before inducing a pop-up out to Brett Burnham at second base.
Sweeney worked a two-two count on Payton Milliken before he hit a line drive to left field that was caught by Daughrity to end the game and give the Rockets home field advantage in the sectional round.
“That’s my job as a closer, just come in and handle the game and get it done,” Sweeney said. “At first I made myself kinda nervous and then I found the zone and started pounding and got that ‘W’. Now we have another game with home advantage and it feels great.”
Stewart County 000 020 0-2 4 0
Forrest 200 010 X-3 7 3
Stewart County: Brandt Bramlett 1-for-3, Elijah Smith 1-for-4, Andrew Threatt 1-for-3, Brandon Carroll 1-for-3.
RS: Gray, Carroll.
BB: Will Crain 3, Gray, Logan Beecham.
ROE: Gray 2, Payton Milliken.
FC: Bramlett, Swift, Carroll.
Team LOB: 10.
LP: Andrew Threatt (5.1IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 2K, 0BB), Logan Beecham (.2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 1K, 0BB).
Forrest: Drew Daughrity 2-for-2, J.T. Ferguson 1-for-2, Dylan Eady 1-for-3, Ryan Moses 1-for-3, Dustin Brashear 1-for-2, Grayson Whaley 1-for-3, Ethan Mealer 1-for-3.
RS: Ferguson, Jaylen Smith, Daughrity.
RBI: Brashear, Eady, Smith.
SF: Brashear, Smith.
Team LOB: 4
E: Smith 2, Mealer.
WP: Grayson Whaley (1.2IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 2K, 1BB).
Save: Blaize Sweeney (0.2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0K, 1BB).
Started: Dylan Eady (4.2IP, 3H, 2R, 1ER, 6K, 3BB).