Gillespie bomb seals third state title for Forrest

Thursday, May 30, 2019
The 2019 Class 2A state champion Forrest Lady Rockets made a clean sweep of the state tournament with four straight wins.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Lady Rockets finished off a clean sweep of the Class 2A field at the Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships with a gut wrenching 3-1 win over Lexington in the title game on Friday at Murfreesboro.

“This feels amazing, I give the girls all the credit for this,” Forrest coach Shelby Stinnett said. “I’ve been coaching them I guess it feels like since they were in diapers.”

“I’ve coached most of these kids in junior high school and to see the senior class win a game of this magnitude is a really satisfying feeling.”

Forrest senior first baseman Kennedy Gillespie looks up as the ball sails out of the ballpark for the go-ahead, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that propelled the Lady Rockets to a 3-1 win over Lexington and a third state title for Chapel Hill.

Senior Kennedy Gillespie’s dramatic two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth sealed the deal for the Lady Rockets’ third state title.

After a 6-3 loss to Giles County in the District 12-AA Tournament, Forrest (37-5) went on a postseason tear, winning eight consecutive games by a combined score of 37-6.

Lauren Gillespie hurled four straight complete game wins in the circle for Forrest at the state tournament as the Chattanooga State Community College signee dominated the competition, pitching 28 innings, giving up four runs (3 earned) on 17 hits while striking 14 and walking just four.

Forrest senior lefty Lauren Gillespie dominated the Spring Fling XXVI Spring Sports Championships with four consecutive complete game victories in the circle.

In the title game, the crafty lefty gave up one run on six hits while whiffing three and walking none.

Forrest only managed four hits off Lady Tiger hurler Jacy Weaver and left five runners on base in the contest, as did Lexington.

Just like in the first game between the two ball clubs on Thursday, Lexington played small ball in the first inning and scored first.

And just like the last game, the Lady Tigers never scored again.

Kynlee Burke singled to left field to lead off the game and Lauren Hall followed with a perfectly placed bunt single.

Mary Taylor sacrificed both runners over and Kyrsten Brown bunted in Burke to make it 1-0.

The inning ended on a nice catch by Forrest second baseman Laura Mealer in foul territory.

Weaver set down Forrest 1-2-3 in the home half of the first and the Lady Tigers left a runner on base in the top of the second.

Mealer, who beat Lexington on a home run on Thursday, was not going to be pitched to in this game and she was walked to lead off the bottom of the second inning.

That strategy doomed the Lady Tigers in this inning and later on.

Kennedy Gillespie followed with a base hit to center field and Zoe Long moved both runners along with a perfect sacrifice bunt.

Ally Blanton grounded a ball to the right side that was misplayed and Mealer came home with the tying run.

Weaver escaped any further damage with a foul pop to the catcher and fly out to right field.

Lauren Gillespie put the Lady Tigers down in order in the top of the third inning and Forrest stranded two runners in the home half of the stanza.

Lexington managed one base runner apiece in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings but failed to score and Weaver shut down Forrest until the fateful bottom of the sixth inning.

The sixth inning began with a groundout before Mealer was pitched around and walked, bringing Kennedy Gillespie to the plate where she drilled a two-strike pitch deep over the right field fence to put Forrest in front 3-1.

“Going up there I knew whatever they were going to give me I had to work with and I knew I was going to get it done in my last at bat as a senior,” Gillespie said. “I knew it was gone when I hit it and it felt absolutely amazing.”

In the top of the seventh inning, Ashlynne Cogdell grounded out to Kennedy Gillespie at first for out number one and Maci Luxmore hit a ground ball to Karley Daughrity for the second out as the anticipation grew to a feverish level.

The Lady Rockets celebrate with their fans after winning the Class 2A state title Friday at Murfreesboro.

Lauren Gillespie faced her counterpart Weaver and she sent a soft roller to Mealer at second, who gunned to Kennedy Gillespie at first for the final out and the Class 2A title was Chapel Hill’s.

Lauren Gillespie, Kennedy Gillespie, and Kayla Gillespie, who were eighth graders on the 2015 championship squad, are now the only three Forrest softball players with two state championship rings.

“Being eighth-graders on that team was so amazing and I remember the feeling that we all wanted to make it back here again,” Kennedy Gillespie said. “Our dream was to win another state championship and we were not going to settle for anything less.”

The myriad of supporters of Forrest softball pose with the championship squad at the Field of Dreams in Chapel Hill Friday afternoon after the squad returned from winning the title in Murfreesboro.

“This season just flew by and it is crazy how much work every single girl on this team dedicated to this.”

Stinnett became the only former Forrest athlete with a state title (2008) to coach a state championship team.

Stinnett was also an assistant coach in 2015.

Lexington 100 000 0-1 6 1

Forrest 010 002 X-3 4 0

Lexington: Kynlee Burke 2-for-3, Morgan Russell 2-for-3, Lauren Hall 1-for-3, Ashlynne Cogdell 1-for-3.

RS: Burke.

RBI: Brown.

SAC: Taylor, Kyrsten Brown.

LOB: 5

E: Russell.

LP: Jacy Weaver (6IP, 3H, 3R, 2ER, 3K, 3BB).

Forrest: Kennedy Gillespie 2-for-3, Jenna Blanton 1-for-3, Kiersten Blalock 1-for-1.

BB: Mealer 3.

RS: Mealer 2, Kennedy Gillespie.

3B: Jenna Blanton.

HR: Kennedy Gillespie.

IW: Mealer.

SAC: Zoe Long.

ROE: Ally Blanton, Kiersten Blalock.

SB: Mealer.

LOB 5

WP: Lauren Gillespie (7IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 3K, 0BB).