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Champs fall to Rockets in 7-AA opener

By WILL CARTER ~ Sports Writer
Posted 3/28/23

BELL BUCKLE — In a grind-it-out District 7-AA opener with the Forrest Rockets on Monday night, the Cascade Champions rallied to make it a one-run game heading into the seventh inning, but …

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Champs fall to Rockets in 7-AA opener


BELL BUCKLE — In a grind-it-out District 7-AA opener with the Forrest Rockets on Monday night, the Cascade Champions rallied to make it a one-run game heading into the seventh inning, but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling 6-3 in the end. 
Heading into the top of the sixth inning the Champions  (1-6, 0-1) trailed 2-1, but surrendered two runs with two outs down to the Rockets (can’t find their record) to increase their deficit to 4-1. 
The second run of the inning scored on a dropped third strike, but reliever Zach Crosslin struck out the next batter to get out of the jam. 
Crosslin tossed 1 1/3 innings giving up two runs on two hits while fanning three batters. 
Cascade answered with their own respective two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth after Jaxon Sheffield knocked a leadoff double deep into left-center field as Conner Melson knocked a double of his own off the right field wall to score Sheffield. 
In the next at-bat, Jordan Childress reached base on a throwing error, and Melson scored to make it a 4-3 game heading to the final frame. 
Crosslin notched his third strikeout of the game in the top of the seventh after giving up a single and hitting the leadoff batter, but walked the next two batters to give the Rockets a 5-3 lead. 
Cascade logged their second out of the inning in the next at-bat by catching Forrest stealing home on a passed ball which left Crosslin facing a 3-2 count against Forrest starting pitcher Riley Durbin. 
Durbin dropped a single in the infield to score Carter Walk from third for a 6-3 Rockets lead.
He went 2-for-3 on the night with two RBIs, and nine batters in a complete game outing. 
Crosslin walked the next batter to load the bases, but got out of the jam with a fly out to end the tough inning. 
“We had some bad luck at times. I felt like we made plays, they made plays, and it was back-and-forth,” Champs head coach Travis Sheffield said.
“It was a 2-1 ballgame going late into the game. We had a small cross up with the catcher. Wound up missing a fastball for a passed ball on an 0-2 count, and they scored a run. Later Zach threw a good pitch, but they got a little infield single. If we would have capitalized at the end to be down only one run instead of three before our last at-bat, there’s a lot more pressure there at the end. We just had some bad luck.”
Champion catcher Noah McGeary hit a two-out single to try and kickstart a rally, but Sheffield flied out on the first pitch he saw to end the game. 
McGeary went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles on the night. 
The Champions outhit the Rockets 7-6 on the night, but couldn’t knock one at times with runners in scoring position, leaving six stranded throughout the game. 
Sheffield and his staff have been pushing a philosophy of “playing catch at the plate” to their squad – meaning to keep it simple and not try to do too much – and he emphasized that sentiment after the loss. 
“We have some guys that can do some big things at the plate, but they try to do too much with runners on base instead of just ‘playing catch.’ We’ve been trying to send the message of ‘just catch the ball’ when you’re at the plate,” he said. “I’d have to look at the numbers, but multiple strikeouts with runners in scoring position is not going to win many ball games. Hats off to him (Durbin) for sure. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, but he was blowing fastballs by us in fastball counts.”
Cascade used three pitchers throughout the game with Walker Craig tossing the first four innings, Chance Brown relieving for 1 2/3 innings, and Crosslin finishing out the final 1 1/3 innings. 
The trio gave up two hits and struck out three batters each while combining for 13 walks. 
Champion junior Sawyer Lovvorn blasted the lone home run of the night with a solo shot in the bottom of the second inning to tie the game 1-1, but the Rockets took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning and held it for the rest of the game. 
The two teams will meet on the diamond again Tuesday night with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill. 

Forrest 011 002 2 — 6 6 1
Cascade 010 002 0 — 3 7 0

Cascade: Noah McGeary 2-for-4, Brayden Dennison 1-for-2, Jaxon Sheffield 1-for-3, Walker Craig 1-for-3, Sawyer Lovvorn 1-for-3, Conner Melson 1-for-3. 
Forrest: Riley Durbin 2-for-3, Ryan Meglis 2-for-4, Carter Walk 1-for-2, Brennan Mealer 1-for-2.

WP: Durbin
LP: Craig