SMYRNA — The standard high school baseball game goes seven innings. In Tuesday afternoon’s Class 2-A state tournament opener between the Forrest and White House Heritage, the game …
SMYRNA — The standard high school baseball game goes seven innings.
In Tuesday afternoon’s Class 2-A state tournament opener between the Forrest and White House Heritage, the game stretched nearly three hours and went 11 innings before the Patriots walked off against the Rockets for the 7-6 win.
Last season, the two teams met in the postseason and it was Heritage, who in similar fashion, knocked the Rockets out of the tournament with an extra-innings walk-off.
“Walk-off fashion in extra innings again—same opponent who put us out last year. It’s a pretty bittersweet picture there. But I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of our resiliency. We fought back from being down 5-1 to get the ball game tied. We had base runners on and executed some good things, we just couldn’t get that last hit to drop when we needed it,” Rocket coach Andy Burkett said.
The marathon between the Rockets and Patriots saw Heritage grab a 2-1 lead, after Forrest got on the board in the top of the first inning on a sac-fly by Carter Walk, scoring Tyler Baxter.
Heritage rallied for two in the bottom of the inning and that score stood for two innings, until the Patriots connected on a three-run homer to bump the lead to 5-1 by the end of the third.
But if the 2023 Forrest Rockets have proven one thing, it’s they’re never out of a game.
Branham Haynes got one back for the Rockets when he ground into a double play in the fourth and a second run scored on a Patriot error, cutting the Heritage lead to two.
Another two-run inning tied the game at five in the sixth inning with Haynes again grounding into a fielder’s choice, scoring another run and then Tyler Baxter knocked in a fifth Rocket run to tie the game at five.
The rollercoaster back-and-forth between Forrest and Heritage continued into the sixth when the Patriots scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.
Forrest flashed the leather and worked a double play before forcing a fly out to end the threat in the sixth.
And just as quickly as Heritage struck, the Rockets again answered the bell and tied the game on a Luke Allen sac-fly to tie the game at six.
From there, the game settled into the extra-innings marathon that extended an additional four innings, with neither team being able to consistently string together enough hits to plate another run, until the fateful 11th inning that saw the Patriots connect on four singles, including the one-out, bases-loaded single to walk the game off.
But no matter what, Forrest answered Heritage at every turn.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time, I’m extremely proud of them and I’m proud to be able to coach them,” Burkett said.
With the state tournament being played out through four days, managing pitch counts becomes one of the biggest components of the long-term strategy.
Forrest saw four pitchers toe the rubber on Tuesday night, but all four were under strict scrutiny for their pitch count limits, which would affect their next outing they can appear.
“We had to kind of play the pitch count game because it’s the state tournament,” Burkett said.
Durbin got the start and went 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits, before Luke Allen took over and pitched 2 1/3 innings.
He gave up one run on one hit and struck out two.
Carter walk went 2 1/3 innings and gave up just one hit before Preston Gentry took over and pitched an excellent 2 13/ final innings.
“ Hats off to Preston Gentry, who probably only has eight innings on the year for us and just going out there and gutting the rest of it out the rest of the way,” Burkett said.
Tyler Baxter led the Rockets, going 5-for-6 on the night.
The loss drops Forrest to the consolation bracket in an elimination game against Adamsville, who was crushed by Union County, 13-3.
First pitch is set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Forrest 100 202 100 00 — 6 13 2
White House Heritage 203 001 000 01 — 7 15 3
Forrest: Tyler Baxter 5-for-6, Kason Fuller 1-for-5, Riley Durbin 2-for-5, Luke Allen 2-for-4, Ryan Meglis 1-for-3, Austin Dillon 2-for-5.