SMYRNA — A heartbreaking loss in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 2-A State Tournament on Tuesday landed the Forrest Rockets in the consolation bracket with their backs against the wall on …
SMYRNA — A heartbreaking loss in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 2-A State Tournament on Tuesday landed the Forrest Rockets in the consolation bracket with their backs against the wall on Wednesday, where they needed a pair of wins to survive and advance.
After the Rockets (25-13) secured a 5-3 win against the Adamsville Cardinals in their first game on Wednesday, they prepared to face the White House Heritage Patriots, who beat them on Tuesday and also ended the Rockets’ season last year.
This time around Forrest got its redemption against the Patriots (26-9) as they exploded for 10 runs in the top of the fourth inning, and held on for a 12-2 victory in five innings via mercy rule.
“I respect White House Heritage a lot, but I’m glad to have gotten this win and gotten some redemption for last year and this year as well. These boys deserved this,” Forrest head coach Andy Burkett said.
“They deserved to win that game on Tuesday – they fought with everything they had, and they’ve been fighting out of the loser’s bracket since then. We’re two games away from the state championship, and I think we can start to feel it now.”
Forrest took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Patriots tied the game up in the bottom of the third with a string of four singles before the Rockets’ explosion a half inning later.
After a trio of singles loaded the bases, Preston Gentry doubled to left field to plate Austin Dillon and Branham Haynes for a 4-2 lead.
One batter later Rockets’ starting pitcher Kason Fuller knocked a single to score Tyler Baxter, and an error in the ensuing at-bat scored Gentry to make it 6-2.
Riley Durbin added another run with a bunt down the third baseline two at-bats later, and the Rockets extended their lead to 10-2 immediately after with one run scoring on a passed ball and two more on a hard-hit ground ball by Ryan Meglis.
They mustered two more runs before the Patriots were able to get out of the long inning.
Forrest didn’t allow the Patriots to gather any momentum in their final two chances at the plate, and secured the win to extend their season.
“The biggest thing is the notion with us that when our backs are against the wall, this team seems to come out ready to play,” Burkett said. “As a coach, you can’t ask anything more than for your players and staff to have that grit and intensity about them to know they’re never out of a game. It’s a testament to how hard these boys have worked this season, and they deserve every bit of it.”
Fuller toed the mound for the Rockets in the win despite not spending much time on the mound throughout the season, but he didn’t show many signs of inexperience as he tossed all five innings, allowing two runs on nine hits while walking three and fanning two.
“Kason Fuller had 15 innings the entire year, and he went out and gave us five innings of excellent pitching. He gave us an opportunity to win the game,” Burkett said.
The Rockets are in a similar position on Thursday as they have to beat the Union County Patriots twice to advance to the championship game on Friday.
“I’m excited for tomorrow. We’re gonna fight, claw, and anything we can to get the win tomorrow. If we do that, then absolutely anything can happen in the second game,” Burkett said.
Game one on Thursday is set for 2 p.m. at Stewart’s Creek High School with an if necessary game to follow 30 minutes after.
Forrest 200 0 (10) 0 – 12 12 0
Heritage 00 2 00 – 2 9 5
Forrest: Tyler Baxter 3-for-3, Riley Durbin 1-for-2, Preston Gentry 2-for-3, Luke Allen 2-for-3, Austin Dillon 2-for-3, Kason Fuller 1-for-3, Branham Haynes 1-for-3.
FORREST 5, ADAMSVILLE 3
Forrest took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning against Adamsville, but the Cardinals didn’t hand the win over as they rallied for three runs before the Rockets were able to secure the final out of the game for a 5-3 victory.
Carter Walked got the nod and went the distance for the Rockets, giving up 10 hits while striking out four and walking one.
Most of all, he gave the Rockets a chance to play another game.
“Carter Walk is an animal, and we call him that for a reason. He absolutely is a dog,” Burkett said. “You can’t say enough about him and the grit he has. He trusts the three pitches that he throws, and he can throw them in any count. He kept them off balance the entire time, and gave us a chance to be here tonight. Fuller did the rest from there.”
After three scoreless innings, the Rockets got to work in the top of the fourth inning as Gentry knocked a leadoff single and Fuller followed with a double for the first run of the game.
Fuller scored later in the inning on a Luke Allen sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 before the inning ended.
Walk and the Rockets put the Cardinals down 1-2-3 in the bottom half, and Tyler Baxter made it a 3-0 game in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly that plated Branham Haynes.
Forrest scored their final two runs of the game in the top of the sixth inning with Allen advancing and scoring on a pair of passed balls after knocking a leadoff double, and Baxter putting another sacrifice fly in the outfield three at-bats later to make it 5-0.
Forrest 000 212 0 — 5 4 0
Adams 000 000 3 — 3 10 3
Forrest: Branham Haynes 1-for-2, Kason Fuller 1-for-2, Preston Gentry 1-for-3, Luke Allen 1-for-3.
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