SMYRNA — After winning three straight games in the TSSAA Class AA state baseball tournament after an opening game 11-inning loss, the Forrest Rockets positioned themselves to within one win of …
SMYRNA — After winning three straight games in the TSSAA Class AA state baseball tournament after an opening game 11-inning loss, the Forrest Rockets positioned themselves to within one win of the state championship game. But an eight-run third inning by the Union County Patriots proved to be too much for the Rockets to overcome as the Patriots ended the Forrest season with an 11-2 win.
After the Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning, the Rockets fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the second.
Carter Walk reached base on an error to start the inning and advanced with one out on a single by Riley Durbin.
Ryan Meglis drove in Walk on a fielder’s choice to knot the game at 1-1.
The top of the third turned out to be decisive as Union County sent 12 batters to the plate with eight Patriots scoring.
The Patriots had six hits and used two Rocket walks to score the eight runs as Union County took a 9-1 lead.
The Rockets got one run back in the bottom of the fifth.
After walks to Branham Haynes and Kason Fuller, Walk delivered a two-out single down the left field line to score Haynes and cut the Patriot lead to 9-2.
The Patriots upped their lead in the sixth.
With the bases loaded and one out, a blooper over the drawn-in infield dropped in to score two runs and give Union County an 11-2 advantage.
The Rockets put two runners on base in each of the last two innings but could not plate a run as Union County advanced to the state championship game.
Meglis had two hits to lead the Rocket five-hit attack.
Coach Andy Burkett of the Rockets talked about the resilience of his team to come back in the tournament after the first-game loss.
“Our backs have been against the wall many times this season and we’ve found a way to overcome,” Burkett said.
“It’s a testament to our leadership, it’s a testament to our coaching staff, and more than anything else, it’s a testament to our boys,” Burkett added. “They’ve got grit, they’re as hard-working as anybody.”
Despite the score, the Rockets drew on their past successes to mount a comeback.
“I think there was a heartbeat in that dugout until the last out was made,” Burkett said.
“Hats off to Union County, that’s a good ball team,” Burkett added. “They played hard, they swing the bat really, really, well. I thought our guys gave them everything they could handle.”
“At the end of the day, we’re tired, we’re exhausted, but at the same time we’re hopeful,” Burkett said. “We know the future’s very bright for us.”
It was the final game in a Rocket uniform for seniors Meglis and Durbin.
“They were the heartbeat of this ball club,” Burkett said. “They’ve laid the groundwork and foundation for leadership and for what’s to come for Forrest baseball.”
“Riley Durbin’s been our guy for two years now. He was our ace pitcher on the staff. He gave us a chance to win every time he took the bump,” Burkett said.
“Ryan Meglis is one of those kids that doesn’t get enough credit in the world about how truly resilient and hard-working he is,” Burkett added. “He’s a kid that had to wait his turn and hit .370 this year and had probably 20 stolen bases.”
Forrest ended its season with a 26-14 record.
“Forrest baseball’s M.O. has been the same thing always, we don’t rebuild, we just reload,” Burkett said. “We’ll reload for next year and get these boys ready to go and have them hungry for something a little bit better than third place.”
Union Co. 108 002 0 — 11 12 1
Forrest 010 010 0 — 2 5 2
Union Co.: Max Richardson 1-for-5, Trot Russell 2-for-4, Ian Setzer 3-for-5, Ty Edds 2-for-5, Eben Hansen 1-for-2, Jake Ryder 1-for-3, Reed Melton 1-for-1, Jocob Ford 1-for-4.
Forrest: Preston Gentry 1-for-3, Carter Walk 1-for-4, Riley Durbin 1-for-4, Ryan Meglis 2-for-3.