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Champs can’t match Rockets at the plate

By WILL CARTER ~ Sports Writer
Posted 4/19/23

BELL BUCKLE — It was all Forrest Rockets on the diamond in their 11-1 win over the Cascade Champions on Monday night as starting pitcher Riley Durbin tossed all six innings with nine strikeouts …

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Champs can’t match Rockets at the plate


BELL BUCKLE — It was all Forrest Rockets on the diamond in their 11-1 win over the Cascade Champions on Monday night as starting pitcher Riley Durbin tossed all six innings with nine strikeouts and only two hits given up, and sophomore Kason Fuller went 3-for-4 at the plate with five RBIs and two doubles to lead the way. 
The duo accounted for all three RBIs in the opening frame with Durbin knocking an RBI single and Fuller driving in two runs with his first double of the game. 
Durbin followed it up by striking out the first two batters he faced in the bottom half, and forcing a ground out for a 1-2-3 inning. 
“We know that from the top to the bottom of our lineup we can execute. If Durbin is throwing strikes like he did tonight, then we have a chance to win any game,” Rocket head coach Andy Burkett said.
“We work hard enough on hitting and our lineup to know that guys are going to compete at the plate. He (Fuller) has an excellent baseball IQ, a high motor, and a joy to coach. I don’t understand how he gets his approach so well, being so young. He’s a monster.”
After taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Rockets (12-5, 6-0) added to their advantage with four runs in the top of the second to take an early 7-0 lead over the Champions (6-11, 4-3). 
With the bases loaded and only one out down, one run scored when Preston Gentry was walked and Fuller knocked a bases clearing double to score three more runs. 
Cascade secured two consecutive outs immediately after to end the inning with starting pitcher Jaxon Sheffield striking out his first batter of the game. 
Sheffield was replaced on the mound by Zach Crosslin after two innings of work. 
Behind Crosslin’s arm, the Champions were able to keep the Rockets at bay with three straight scoreless innings as Crosslin only gave up three hits and struck out three in that span. 
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Cascade was able to plate one run on a fielder’s choice double play that ended the inning to make it a 7-1 game, but that was all they were able to scrape across throughout the contest. 
After Durbin struck out the opening two batters of the bottom of the fifth inning, he walked the next two which gave the Champions an opportunity to produce some offense, but the Rockets secured the final out on a fly ball to left field. 
Forrest followed it up with another four-run inning in the top of the sixth as they notched two hits to make it an 11-1 game with a chance to end the game in the bottom half. 
Left fielder Carter Walk made an extravagant diving catch for the first out, and Durbin struck out the next two batters to bring the game to its close. 
“He was locating his fastball really well all night. He started missing up in the zone later in the game and got frustrated, but we were able to talk to him and calm him down a little bit,” Burkett said. “His curveball was the biggest difference. Once he was able to locate that, I think he got four out his last five strikeouts on his breaking ball. It’s fun to call pitches when you have a guy that can locate the ball and throw strikes.”
With the win, the Rockets stay undefeated in District 7-AA play with three more games to play as they sit comfortably in the top spot. 
Making and meeting small goals on their way to bigger ones has been the key for Burkett and the Rockets. 
“For us, having small stepping stones and gathering momentum really helped us out last year, so we’re going with that again this year,” Burkett said. “The first goal was to win the regular season title. If we have the opportunity to go undefeated in the regular season district, then that’s our next goal and take that into the district tournament.”

Forrest 340 004 — 11 9 1
Cascade 000 100 — 1 2 3

Forrest: Branham Haynes 2-for-2, Kason Fuller 3-for-4, Riley Durbin 3-for-4, Luke Allen 1-for-4. 
Cascade: Logan Pulley 1-for-2, Walker Craig 1-for-3.

WP: Durbin
LP: Sheffield