PIKEVILLE — Lady Rocket coach Shelby Lightfoot wants her team to deliver two of the three parts of the game, whether it’s hitting and pitching, pitching and fielding, or hitting and …
PIKEVILLE — Lady Rocket coach Shelby Lightfoot wants her team to deliver two of the three parts of the game, whether it’s hitting and pitching, pitching and fielding, or hitting and fielding—she feels like any combination gives Forrest a good shot to win the game.
In Friday afternoon’s Class 2A state sectional at Bledsoe County (21-1), the Lady Rockets (26-11) delivered in all three phases and punched their ticket to the Class 2A state tournament, with a 9-4 win over the Lady Warriors.
“We felt like we’ve had this team all year. It’s just finding a way for them to show up. We always talk about if we can do two of three parts of the game, whether that’s fielding and pitching or pitching and hitting, we just need two out of three. Especially with (Taylor) Moreland coming in and throwing a gem. That was big for us,” Lightfoot said.
After both teams slotted a scoreless first inning, it was Forrest who got to to work in the top of the second inning with a lead-off double off the bat of Ella Chilton.
Forrest then executed the small ball approach to perfection and loaded the bases with back-to-back bunts, with Carli Warner driving home Chilton for the first run of the game.
Briley Burnham then laid down a sacrifice to score a a second Lady Rocket run of the inning, bringing Parker Wales to the plate.
Wales laid into a pitch and scored the shot to center field, scoring Warner, and then advanced on to third on a Bledsoe County error.
The final run of the second inning came with a sac fly from Macyn Kirby, giving the Lady Rockets a 4-0 lead.
With a 4-0 lead in hand, the momentum shifted entirely to Forrest’s side.
But that momentum shift didn’t last long.
Bledsoe County responded with back-to-back solo home runs and then proceeded to load the bases, prompting Lightfoot to turn to Moreland, who relieved Chilton in the pitcher’s circle.
Bledsoe County then drew two bases-loaded walks to tie the game at four runs apiece.
After a fly out to right field ended the inning, both teams settled into the game and neither was able to push another run across the plate for the next two innings.
It wasn’t until an error at first base by Bledsoe County that Forrest was able to break the stalemate in the fifth inning when courtesy base runner Maddy Ille scored.
Forrest added to its lead in the sixth with another dollop of small ball by Warner, who laid down another perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt, scoring Maggie Daughrity.
The back-breaker came in a three-run seventh inning that Forrest again put pressure on the Lady Warrior infield to make a play with Kirby safely reaching via error and bunt singles by Moreland and Christa Warren to load the bases.
“We feel like that with every team we play. If we can do some small ball, and execute that and run the bases—we’re a very speedy team, so that gives us an advantage,” Lightfoot said.
Two batters later, Chilton slugged a two RBI double and then Daughrity added another bunt single, scoring Chilton.
Bledsoe County showed a flicker of life in the bottom of the seventh with a lead-off single by Cyla Swafford, but Moreland slammed the door shut on any comeback attempt with a pair of strikeouts and a 4-3 put out to end the game.
Chilton got the start for the Lady Rockets and after a scoreless first inning, Lightfoot turned to Moreland to carry the Lady Rockets the rest of the way.
Moreland pitched the final 5 1/3 innings and gave up just two hits, while striking out 10 batters.
“Those two (Chilton and Moreland) have really complemented each other. When Taylor’s been off, Ella’s been on and vice versa. Ella, we just couldn’t get her off-speed over, so Taylor coming in, they were very aggressive hitters. Our goal was just to keep them in the ballpark. Using that change-up and her getting that change-up over was big,” Lightfoot said.
Friday’s game marked the first time this season a team was able to defeat Bledsoe County, who entered the sectional matchup with Forrest with a 21-0 record, a Region 3-A championship and a District 5-AA title as well.
For Forrest, the win puts the Lady Rockets back in the Class 2A state tournament, with their sights set on bringing another state title back to Chapel Hill.
Entering the tournament next week, Lightfoot said it’s all about digging deep and getting to the team’s heart.
“The biggest thing we keep harping on is not play every play like it’s your last, but every pitch. We feel like when our momentum is there, our grit is there and our heart comes alive, because when our heart comes alive, we’re hard to beat. That’s what we have to show and bring to the field,” Lightfoot said.
The Class 2A state tournament is set to begin on Tuesday night in Murfreesboro.
Forrest 040 011 3 — 9 9 1
Bledsoe Co. 040 000 0 — 4 7 6
Forrest: Taylor Moreland 2-for-3, Chirsta Warren 1-for-3, Abby Ferguson 1-for-4, Ella Chilton 2-for-4, Maggie Daughrity 2-for-4, Parker Wales 1-for-3.