Mealer’s bombs, circle-mates shutout sends Forrest state bound
Forrest hosted Westmoreland Friday night in a Class 2A state sectional contest at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill and they dominated the Lady Eagles in the circle and at the plate, posting a 10-0 six inning, run-rule win to qualify for the Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships, beginning on Tuesday at Murfreesboro.
“It feels good, I have said it all year we have a great group of girls and have a great coaching staff,” Forrest coach Shelby Stinnett said. “It feels good because I have coached a lot of these girls since that first time, coach-pitch, especially that starting bunch, so it feels good to have them all on the field.”
The two-time state champion Lady Rockets (33-5) are making their 17th state tournament appearance and drew an all-time state powerhouse in the first round as they face the defending Class 3A state champion Gibbs Lady Eagles (41-9).
The 10-time state champion Corryton squad is making its 33rd state tournament appearance and are tied for second place with Baylor with the most softball state titles, trailing only Ezell Harding with 13.
District 12-AA Offensive Player of the Year Laura Mealer led the offensive barrage versus Westmoreland on Friday as the sophomore second baseman went 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.
“We have been working a lot on low pitches, so I was looking for anything low,” Mealer said. “Forrest has and always will be one of the hardest working teams I have ever played for and I’m very grateful for my teammates and my coaches and they have really worked with me on my hitting this year.”
Mealer’s two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning set the stage for a Forrest offense that has outscored its opponents 60-10 in the postseason, including a perfect 31-0 in the region tournament and sectional game.
“This last part of the season Laura has just been killing it, I don’t know what else to say,” Stinnett said. “She is seeing ball, hit ball, throwing her in, hitting it where it’s pitched, throwing it out, hitting it where its pitched and she really has had a plan on what she is going to drive, so I can’t ask for anything better.”
Forrest had 13 hits versus three different Westmoreland pitchers as Anna Blanton, Kennedy Gillespie, and Zoe Long all had two hits apiece.
Jenna Blanton, Kayla Gillespie, Karley Daughrity, and Kiersten Blalock all had one hit with Blalock coming up with the walk off single in the pinch-hit role in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Forrest also dominated in the circle as the dynamic duo of senior Lauren Gillespie and sophomore Ashley Milligan combined for the three-hit shutout, splitting the six innings in half.
Neither pitcher issued any bases on balls in the contest as Gillespie gave up one hit and struck out five while Milligan surrendered two hits and whiffed six Westmoreland batters.
Forrest added an unearned run to Mealer’s three-run dinger in the bottom of the first for a 4-0 lead and posted three more runs in the bottom of the second inning on another Westmoreland error plus a Mealer run-scoring single and a perfectly placed slap single RBI by Long over the third baseman’s head.
“I’m big on energy and I think anytime you can get that momentum and energy early it gives you a little bit of an advantage and puts the pressure on the other team,” Stinnett said. “So it is really big for us on our offense to get that energy early and let our pitchers dominate.”
Gillespie picked up the win as they crafty lefty sailed through the first three innings with a great control, mixing her off-speed and fastball to perfection to keep the Westmoreland batters off balance.
Milligan came to the circle in the top of the fourth and came with straight gas, striking out the first two batters she faced before Westmoreland managed back-to-back base hits.
Milligan would have none of it as she came up with an inning ending strikeout and Westmoreland never threatened again on offense.
Forrest did not score again until the top of the fifth inning when Kayla Gillespie banged a leadoff single and her pinch-runner Sayrna Kurtz was sacrificed to second by Daughrity before Jenna Blanton laced an RBI triple in to the left/center field gap to score Kurtz.
Mealer drilled a moon shot over the center field fence, leading off the bottom of the sixth inning to make it 9-0.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world, as soon as it hit the bat I knew it was gone,” Mealer said. “It’s amazing and I’m very excited to take on the state tournament with my team behind me, as long as we carry the same mentality from the last three games I think we will be alright.”
Kennedy Gillespie followed with a base hit to left field and Long reached on Westmoreland’s third error of the game before Blalock ended the game with an RBI scorcher past shortstop.
The Lady Rockets play on McKnight Field #1 in Murfreesboro with first pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Marion County (23-11) takes on Jackson South Side (35-8) in the first game at McKnight Field while 2013 state champion Lexington (44-4) plays 1990 state champion Sequatchie County (31-10) in game one at the Starplex Field, followed by Creek Wood (34-5-1) versus Alcoa (24-10-1) in the nightcap of the double elimination tournament.
“This is a big accomplishment and I don’t want to take anything away from that of just making it, so that is big first and foremost,” Stinnett said. “We just have to take it one game at a time and try to stay in the winner’s bracket so you don’t have to double up a game, so they just have to play their game and the sky is the limit.”
Westmorland 000 000 X-0 3 3
Forrest 430 012 X-10 13 1
Westmorland: Jordan Bandy 1-for-3, Karlie Harris 1-for-3, Zoey Fuller 1-for-2.
ROE: Leah Kendall.
FC: Jordan Bandy.
HBP: Mallory White.
Team LOB: 5
E: Fuller, Bandy, Kendall.
LP: Aubree Presley.
Forrest: Laura Mealer 3-for-3, Anna Blanton 2-for-3, Kennedy Gillespie 2-for-3, Zoe Long 2-for-3, Jenna Blanton 1-for-3, Kiersten Blalock 1-for-1, Kayla Gillespie 1-for-3, Karley Daughrity 1-for-3.
BB: Kaitlin Leverette, Mealer, Kennedy Gillespie, Ally Blanton.
RS: Mealer 3, Leverette 2, Anna Blanton, Kennedy Gillespie, Zoe Long, Sayrna Kurtz, Daughrity.
3B: Jenna Blanton.
HR: Mealer 2.
RBI: Mealer 4, Blalock, Jenna Blanton, Kennedy Gillespie, Long.
SAC: Jenna Blanton, Anna Blanton.
ROE: Leverette, Long.
FC: Ally Blanton.
SB: Anna Blanton 2, Long 2.
Team LOB: 7
E: Kennedy Gillespie.