Rockets take wild win over Sycamore, head to Spring Fling
The Forrest Rockets travelled to Sycamore Friday night for a Class 2A state sectional game with a berth in the Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships at stake.
The Rockets (16-14-1) took advantage of sloppy fielding by the War Eagles and their own timely hitting, plus some “Blue Moon” magic to come away with an 8-4 victory to claim their spot in a first round state tournament game on Tuesday versus Haywood (19-13-1) at Smyrna High School.
The Rockets pounced in the top of the first inning when Brett Burnham walked and Max Kirby tapped a slow roller and he beat the throw to first to put two men on with no outs.
Grayson Whaley poked a ball down the left field line for two RBIs, putting Forrest in the lead 2-0 before Sycamore got out of the inning with a nifty double play.
Forrest ace righty Ethan Mealer came out firing and the War Eagles’ Blaine McIntosh watched a good inside pitch go by for a called strike for the first out.
When asked about the late afternoon heat affecting him, Mealer said, “A little bit, I had to rub my hand in the dirt to get a better grip on the ball.”
Two harmless fly balls hit to left field were caught and the score remained 2-0.
The Rockets got the first batter on in the top of the second when Spence Oliver slapped a hit to left field.
Cannon Cervantes lifted a fly ball to right that dropped in front of the War Eagles’ left fielder, who threw to second to nail Oliver, trapped in no man’s land between first and second.
War Eagles’ pitcher JJ Ivey settled down after the first inning and got two strike outs sandwiched around a walk to escape any further damage.
In the bottom of the second Sycamore bounced back as leadoff hitter Noah Jolley reached on an error, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Bailey Chapman RBI base hit to make it 2-1.
Forrest did not score in the top of the third inning and in bottom of the inning, the War Eagles tied the game on a sacrifice fly RBI by Dawson Yoes.
With Ivey settled in, the Rockets went in order in the top of the fourth.
Mealer gave up a second hit to Bailey Chapman before striking out three in a row to preserve the tie.
With the almost full seasonal Blue Moon shining in the evening sky, the strangeness it brings out started to unfold for the Rockets in the top of the fifth.
Gauge Anderson got aboard on an error and Burnham laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put runners on first and second.
Max Kirby then laid down another bunt that the War Eagles’ pitcher and catcher could not decide whose it was to field and by the time the ball was picked up, the bases were loaded.
When asked about the fifth inning where the Rockets played small-ball Forrest coach Bart Joyce said, “We practice and practice that, it comes in handy sometimes.”
Mealer popped up a ball and as the umpire yelled “infield fly” Mealer collided with the War Eagles’ first baseman, sending both players sprawling.
A lengthy discussion between the umpires and Joyce then transpired and even War Eagles’ coach Matt Carrigan got in on the action.
After all was said and done, the bases were still loaded and Mealer was ejected from the game because the umpire made a judgement call saying that Mealer lowered his shoulder and knocked down the first baseman on purpose.
Mealer will have to serve a two-suspension for the ejection and Forrest appealed the decision on Monday and is awaiting a resolution at press time.
Ivey got a strikeout for out number two and it looked as if the War Eagles would dodge a bullet.
Not so, as catcher Blake Young threw wild on a pickoff to third and Anderson scooted home to put the Rockets up 3-2.
Freshman Kain Moses took over for Mealer on the mound and said about coming in, “I was a little nervous at first, but my curve ball was working.”
The War Eagles put two runners on with two outs with the help of yet another Rocket error and a base hit by Heckert before Moses got a pop-up to retire the side.
Spence Oliver reached on a Sycamore error to lead off the top of the fifth and Devon Aydelot was inserted as a pinch runner.
After the next two Forrest batters were retired, Anderson came up with a base hit to put runners on first and third.
Joyce called the trick play on a rundown play between first and second base and Aydelot scampered home on the throw to the plate to make a 4-2 contest.
Sycamore mounted a threat in the top of the sixth inning as Jarrett Edmondson led off with a base hit and after one out, Chapman stroked his third hit of the game.
Trevor Thomason followed with a bunt single to load the bases and John Hale followed with ground ball to short that Burnham bobbled, but he regained control and tossed to second for one and then on to first for a double play to get the Rockets out of a jam and preserve the two-run lead.
The ole Blue Moon weirdness showed up again as Carrigan came out to argue the call, but it was not overturned by the home plate umpire and that set off a firestorm.
Carrigan persisted and after a few minutes of futile appeals he was ejected from the game.
An assistant coach tried to get Carrigan off the field, but he refused to go and after a second order to leave the field he finally left.
Then the lady in red came out of the Sycamore dugout, just what her position on the team was is not clear, but with much finger pointing and a loud protest directed toward the umpires, she too was told to leave.
The home plate umpire then observed that the War Eagle dugout had as many non-uniformed personnel as those wearing uniforms and they too were told to leave.
At the end of six innings the score was still 4-2.
Taking advantage of the turmoil on the Sycamore bench, the Rockets struck again as Kirby coaxed a walk and Moses got on an error.
Ty Hengesbach came on to run for Moses and Grayson Whaley got aboard with a catcher’s interference to load the bases.
Blaize Sweeney hit a liner to center that was caught as Kirby tagged and scored.
Aydelot hit a rising line drive that tipped off the glove of the War Eagles right fielder for an error and Hengesbach scored with Whaley going to third.
Cervantes came up with a fielder’s choice RBI off the Sycamore relief pitcher and after a few more Sycamore errors, the Rockets’ lead increased to 8-2.
The bottom of the seventh saw Moses weather a small storm, giving up a two-run homer to Noah Jolley, but the Rockets survived to earn back-to-back trips to the Spring Fling.
“The guys fought through a lot of adversity tonight, everybody contributed, and I am super proud of all of them,” Joyce said.
The Rockets are making their fifth trip to the state tournament and third in four years with their best finish coming in 2006 when they finished as runner-up.
Loudon (23-9) took on Sequatchie County (25-10-1) in the second game at Smyrna Tuesday night while 2013 state champs Pigeon Forge (27-7) played two-time state champs Covington (30-7) in the first of two games at Blackman.
District 12-AA and Region 6-AA Tournament winner Nolensville (21-14), making its initial state tournament appearance, was pitted against Elizabethton (26-8) in the nightcap.
Forrest 200 011 4-8 6 6
Sycamore 011 000 2-4 9 7
Forrest: Max Kirby 2-for-3, Brett Burnham 1-for-3, Grayson Whaley 1-for 2, Gauge Andersen 1-for-3, Spence Oliver 1-for-3.
BB: Burnham, Kirby, Anderson.
RS: Kirby 2, Burnham, Grayson Whaley, Oliver, Devon Aydelot, Andersen, Ty Hengesbach.
RBI: Whaley 2, Sweeney, Cannon Cervantes.
SF: Blaize Sweeney.
ROE: Oliver, Anderson, Aydelot, Kain Moses.
CI: Whaley 2.
SB: Anderson, Cervantes, Aydelot.
Team LOB: 6
E: Whaley 3, Ethan Mealer, Oliver, Burnham.
E: Whaley 3, Burnham, Mealer, Oliver.
WP: Mealer (4IP, 2H, 2R, 0ER, 6K, 0BB).
Save: Moses (3IP, 7H, 2R, 0ER, 0K, 0 BB).
Sycamore: Bailey Chapman 3-for-4, Jerrett Edmundson 2-for-4, Tyler Heckert 1-for-4, Noah Jolley 1-for-4, JJ Ivey 1-for 4, Trevor Thomason 1-for-3.
RS: Blaine McIntosh 2, Jolley 2.
RBI: Jolley 2, Chapman, Dawson Yoes.
ROE: McIntosh 2, Yoes, JJ Ivey, Jolley.
GIDP: John Hale.
SB: McIntosh, Jolley.
Team LOB: 8
E: Edmondson 2, Thomason 2, Ivey, Jolley, Heckert.
DP: Jared McCoy.
LP: JJ Ivey.