Rockets edge Indians, head to 2A title game
With their backs to the wall, the Forrest Rockets met the Sequatchie Indians in the final loser’s bracket contest of the Class 2A Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships at Smyrna High School on Thursday night.
It was a win or go home proposition and the Rockets rode the arm of Ethan Mealer, some timely hitting, and were helped by sloppy fielding from the Indians in a big sixth inning that propelled the boys from Chapel Hill to a 4-2 win and a spot in the Class 2A title game on Friday at Middle Tennessee State University versus Covington.
Sequatchie County beat Forrest in the first loser’s bracket game earlier in the afternoon to set the stage for who got the chance to move on.
Ethan Mealer, coming off a two-game suspension, started on the hill for Forrest and he came up huge, tossing a complete game in his final outing as a Rocket.
Mealer gave up two runs on four hits while striking out four and walking one.
Mealer came out firing, setting down the Indians in order in the top of the first inning.
In the bottom of the first, the Rockets drew first blood as Brett Burnham led off against Sequatchie County’s Blake Henry with a ground ball base hit up the middle.
Burnham reached second on a passed ball and after Cannon Cervantes line out, the Forrest shortstop advanced to third on a second passed ball.
Max Kirby grounded to second base as Burnham scampered home for the Rockets’ first run.
Blaize Sweeney then hit a hard grounder that the Indians shortstop Collin Hudson could not handle and Grayson Whaley followed with a single to put two men on with two outs.
Henry got out of the inning when Mealer lined out to left field.
The Indians struck back in the second as Trevor Ritchie led off with a single and advanced to second when Austin Mitchell grounded to first.
A balk by Mealer sent Ritchie to third and he scored when Tyler Lynn singled to tie the game.
The Rockets put two runners on with one out in the top of the second, but left them stranded.
In the top of the third, Sequatchie County put a man on via an error, but Mealer let his defense do the work and shut the Indians down.
In the bottom of the third the Rockets went down 1-2-3 in the tie game.
In the top of the fourth, Mealer showcased his athletic ability when after walking Mitchell to lead off the inning, Griffin Hall popped up a bunt toward the mound and Mealer stretched out and dove, catching the ball and with great presence of mind threw to first to double up Mitchell.
“It hurt too”, said Mealer “I hit my chin on the ground.”
Mealer then struck out Lynn to end the inning
In the bottom of the fourth, the Rockets put two men on with back-to-back singles by Spence Oliver and Bryson Smith, but as has been the case they could not bring them around.
In the top of the fifth the Rockets defense stood out as Mealer got three ground outs.
On the third out, Whaley made great play on a slow dribbler down the first base line that he had to come in to field the ball and then tag the runner.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Sweeney drove a ball down the left field line that rolled to the wall for a double.
Whaley then drove a liner to right center that was caught for the third out, stranding courtesy runner Devon Aydelot.
The Indians took the lead in the top of the sixth inning when Brodie Terry tripled down the line in right field and scored when Ritchie grounded a ball to the right side of the Rockets’ infield.
Mealer got out of the inning on a fly out and a pop up to Oliver at third base.
The Rockets responded immediately in the bottom of the inning as Mealer led off with a single to right field and was replaced by courtesy runner Ty Hengesbach.
Oliver laid down a bunt that moved Hengesbach to second.
When asked about doing what he is asked Oliver said, “I always try to.”
A base on balls to Smith and an Anderson single to right loaded the bases with no outs.
Burnham reached on an error on the shortstop and the throw home was wild as Hengesbach and Smith scored to put Forest in front 3-1.
Anderson went to third and scored on a Cervantes sacrifice fly, giving Mealer another insurance run and putting the Rockets three outs from advancing to the championship game.
Mealer allowed his defense to finish the task as he induced a grounder to Kirby for the first out before getting a strikeout for the second out and the Rockets were in the title game at MTSU versus Covington when Burnham scooped up a ground ball and threw to Whaley at first for the final out.
Kirby put it so well afterwards, saying, “I love this game.” His teammates do too.
Sequatchie County 010 001 0-2 4 2
Forrest 100 003 X-4 9 1
Sequatchie County: Trevor Ritchie 2-for 3, Bodie Terry 1-for-3, Logan Potts 1-for-3.
RS: Terry, Ritchie.
RBI: Ritchie, Tyler Lynn.
HBP: Caden Swagner.
E: Collin Hudson, Griffin Hall.
LP: Blake Henry (6IP, 9H, 4R, 3ER, 1K, 2 BB).
Forrest: Spence Oliver 2 for 2, Brett Burnham 1-for-4, Blaize Sweeney 1-for-3, Grayson Whaley 1-for-3, Ethan Mealer 1-for-3, Bryson Smith 1-for 2, Gauge Anderson 1-for-3, Max Kirby 1-for-4.
RBI: Burnham 2, Cannon Cervantes, Kirby.
BB: Smith, Anderson.
RS: Burnham, Smith, Anderson, Ty Hengesbach.
ROE: Sweeney, Burnham.
SAC FLY: Cervantes.
WP: Mealer (7IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 4 SO, 1 BB).