The Marshall County Post

Follow Us On:

Rallyin’ Rockets surge past Lions with big 3rd to win 9-AA

Posted on Sunday, May 5, 2024 at 9:02 pm

The Forrest Rockets pose with their District 9-AA champion plaque after defeating Cannon County on Sunday afternoon. (Post Photo by Chris Siers)

Third baseman Luke Allen fires the throw to first base for the final out and secures the Rockets’ championship. (Post Photo by Chris Siers)

CHAPEL HILL — Andy Burkett never counted his team out, even when the Rockets got down 2-0 against Cannon County on Sunday afternoon in the District 9-AA championship.
The rallyin’ Rockets (16-10) came up with an answer to the two-run deficit and pushed six runs across the plate in the bottom of the third and held on to beat the Lions 7-5 to take home the District 9-AA title.
“It’s grit. It’s attitude. It’s effort. It’s all the things we coach. We go down early, 1-0, and A.J. (Armstrong) is a great ballplayer and hit a home run and kind of took a little wind out of our sails.
We knew we would have to put the gas pedal down at some point in time. Ultimately, we needed our bats to show up and they showed up when it mattered most,” Rocket head coach Andy Burkett said.
A solo home run from Armstrong in the first and a RBI double roped into center field by Bennett Kauffman put the Lions up 2-0.
In the bottom of the third, Armstrong, who got the start for the Lions, quickly at down the first two Forrest batters faced.
With two outs, Austin Dillon drew a walk and Brennan Mealer followed with a double to left, putting two runners in scoring position.
From there, three-straight RBI singles from Gentry, Kason Fuller and Carter Walk gave the Rockets a lead they never relinquished.
But even after snatching a 3-2 lead over the Lions, Forrest continued to play add on and tacked on three more runs, including a run from Fuller who scored on a Cannon County error, a RBI single from Branham Haynes and a sixth run of the inning by Luke Allen off another Cannon County error.
The Rockets tacked on a final run in the fifth off a third Lion error, scoring Walk for the 7-2 Forrest lead.
But like Forrest, Cannon County didn’t go quietly and the Lions rallied for three more runs in the sixth.
Not backing down, Walk continued to battle on the mound and the Rockets flashed the leather and cut down the lead Lion base runner at third to end the rally.
In the seventh, Gentry slammed the door shut on the Lions’ championship hopes and sat Cannon County down in order to ensure the Rockets’ 9-AA title.
“You can’t say enough about Preston Gentry. He’s our team captain for a reason. The guy has a lot of dawg in him. He’s just an unbelievable competitor and one of the best I’ve ever coached. I’m extremely proud of these boys and extremely proud of Preston,” Burkett said.
Gentry battled for seven strong innings against a talented Cannon County lineup. He went the distance and struck out five, while giving up five runs on nine hits.
District 9-AA MVP Brennan Mealer led the Rockets, going 3-for-3 with a double.
The win advances the Rockets to the Region 5-AA tournament on Friday night, which will be held at Loretto.
Through two District 9-AA games, the Rockets only tabbed three pitchers through two games.
“It’s a testament to the way this district tournament format was set up. We basically threw two pitchers in the district tournament. We have guys who got rest We had Mealer warming up in the bullpen just in case he needed to go right there and close out the seventh, but we had a lot of confidence in Preston to get the job done,” Burkett said.
“I like our depth. Carter Walk, who doesn’t have a ton of innings for us, pitched last night and beat Grundy County in a good ball game. We’re in a situation now, if we get the rest we need, I feel pretty good about the result.”
And while nobody is looking too far ahead, the District 9-AA title inches the Rockets one step closer to a return trip to the Class 2A state tournament for a third-straight year.
But make no mistake, there’s no complacency in the Rocket dugout. The “been there” mentality has helped keep the Rockets grounded, while keeping them focused on the horizon.
“I think at the end of the day, that’s what keeps us level, more than anything else. We know we’ve been here before. Even in a situation like this game, we go down a couple of runs, our guys still have a head full of confidence and are ready to get the job done. I know they’re ready to make some noise. They fought and got the chance to play baseball for one more week. When we go to Loretto to play in the region tournament, we’re going to fight and try to get another week of baseball, too,” Burkett said.
Forrest will begin its play in the Region 5-AA tournament on Friday evening.

Cannon Co. 101 003 0 — 5 9 3
Forrest 006 010 x — 7 8 1

Several Rockets earned season honors for their efforts this year. Taking home district awards were (from left) Coach Andy Burkett (Coach of the Year), Brennan Mealer (MVP), Preston Gentry (All-District), Carter Walk (All-District), Austin Dillon (All-District), Kason Fuller (All-District) and Luke Allen (All-District). (Post Photo by Chris Siers)

Preston Gentry tossed a complete game, giving up five runs on nine hits, while striking out five. (Post Photo by Chris Siers)

Brennan Mealer makes contact on Sunday. He went 3-for-3 and was named the District 9-AA MVP. (Post Photo by Chris Siers)

Forrest: Brennan Mealer 3-for-3, Preston Gentry 1-for-3, Kason Fuller 1-for-3, Carter Walke 2-for-2, Branham Haynes 1-for-3.
WP: Gentry (7 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 K, 3 BB)
LP: Armstrong (4 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 K, 1 BB)