Mealer home run seals extra-inning win over Lexington
For the second night in a row, the Forrest Lady Rockets found themselves in a full blown tussle with a West Tennessee squad and for the second night in a row, Chapel Hill prevailed in dramatic fashion.
Laura Mealer’s stunning leadoff home run in the top of the eighth inning of Thursday’s winner’s bracket final broke a 2-2 deadlock that led to a 3-2 win over Lexington and secured a spot in the driver’s seat of the Class 2A bracket at the Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships in Murfreesboro.
“It’s still that one game at a time,” Forrest coach Shelby Stinnett said. “It was close and I’m super proud of the girls coming in against the number-one ranked team and finding a way to get through it.”
The two-time state champion Lady Rockets will be playing for title number three today at 2:30 p.m. in rematch of last’s night game versus Lexington, who eliminated Creek Wood 5-2 in this morning’s loser’s bracket final.
Lexington (47-5) has to beat Forrest (36-5) twice to win the title.
After being set down 1-2-3 in the first inning by Lexington pitcher Jacy Weaver, the Lady Tigers broke out with a pair of small ball, first inning runs off Forrest lefty Lauren Gillespie.
Kynlee Burke drew a leadoff walk and Ashlynne Cogdell came up with a bunt single.
Mary Taylor moved both runners up one base each on a sacrifice bunt before Kennedy Brown laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored Burke to make it 1-0.
Brown took off to steal second and on the attempted throw to get her, Cogdell stole home for a 2-0 lead.
Gillespie retired the next two Lexington batters to escape any further damage.
The Lady Tigers did not score again off Gillespie as the Chattanooga State Community College signee only allowed only one more Lady Tiger to reach second base the rest of the contest.
“A lot of people don’t understand that even though we are playing one game, they are all seven-inning games back-to-back-to-back and it hasn’t been this hot all season,” Stinnett said. “Even when her pitches are not on she is finding a way to get through it.”
Gillespie gave five hits while striking out three, walking one, and hitting one Lexington batter to pick up her third consecutive state tournament win in a row.
“We are not done yet,” Gillespie said. “I could feel my heart beat the entire time, but I knew we could do it.”
“I got the opportunity to see this done when I was an eighth-grader and I’m really excited to get the opportunity again out on the field this time.”
Forrest came back with a run in the top of the second when Mealer doubled to lead off the stanza and Kaitlin Leverette exchanged places with her to make it 2-1.
Zoe Long sacrificed both runners up to second and third, but Weaver escaped with a strikeout and a ground ball to third base.
Gillespie nailed her counterpart with a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the inning.
Jadyn Yarbro came in as a courtesy runner and took off on an attempted steal of second base, but was gunned down by Forrest catcher Ally Blanton for the third out.
Jenna Blanton came up with a one-out slap single in the top of the third and after a groundout, Leverette drilled an RBI double in to the left field corner to tie the game at 2-2.
Mealer walked and Kennedy Gillespie followed with a base hit to left field, but Leverette was thrown out at home to end the inning.
Lauren Gillespie held Lexington scoreless in the bottom of the inning and Forrest went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth.
Lexington squandered a two-on, two-out opportunity in the bottom of the fourth and from there, the Lady Tigers only had one baserunner the remainder of the contest off of Gillespie.
Forrest had a scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth and failed to capitalize and in the top of the seventh inning, the Lady Rockets loaded the bases with two outs, but a pop-up to Lexington first baseman Morgan Russell ended the inning.
The Forrest defense went to work in the bottom of the seventh with three nice plays on ground balls to send the contest to extra innings.
Mealer stepped in to the batter’s box to leadoff the extra stanza and the sophomore electrified the crowd when she nailed a towering home run deep over the left field fence to put Chapel Hill in front 3-2.
“I was really just thinking ground ball base hit,” Mealer said. “But as soon as I made contact I knew it was over.”
“They were a great team over there, it just came down to who had the most heart, who had the most energy, and who was willing to fight the most to win.”
In the home half of the inning, Mealer robbed Weaver of a leadoff base hit when she dove to her right to snare a hot grounder and threw Weaver out at first by inches.
Burke kept the game alive with an infield single, but was erased at second on a nice play by Lauren Gillespie on a grounder back to the circle.
A pop-up to Mealer ended the game and sent the Lady Rockets to their seventh title game and first since 2017.
With a win in the first title game, Forrest can match the 2015 championship squad that went 4-0 to sweep the field.
Forrest 011 000 01-3 8 0
Lexington 200 000 00-2 5 1
Forrest: Jenna Blanton 2-for-4, Laura Mealer 2-for-3, Kennedy Gillespie 2-for-4, Kaitlin Leverette 1-for-4, Kiersten Blalock 1-for-1.
BB: Anna Blanton, Mealer, Zoe Long, Ally Blanton.
RS: Mealer 2, Jenna Blanton.
2B: Kennedy Gillespie, Leverette.
RBI: Leverette, Mealer, Kennedy Gillespie.
SB: Blalock, Jenna Blanton.
WP: Lauren Gillespie (8IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 3K, 1BB).
Lexington: Kynlee Burke 2-for-3, Ashlynne Cogdell 1-for-4, Morgan Russell 1-for-3, Kennedy Brown 1-for-3.
HBP: Jacy Weaver.
RS: Burke, Cogdell.
SAC: Mary Taylor, Lauren Hall.
CS: Burke, Jadyn Yarbro.
LP: Jacy Weaver (8IP, 8H, 3R, 3ER, 2K, 4BB).