Thirteen years ago, at a Thanksgiving dinner, four-year-old Michael Forret walked up to his parents as they were sitting at the table. Then he told them something that would shape the rest of his life — at least up until now.
“I told them I wanted to play baseball,” Forret said. “I don’t know why.”
Forret and his parents still talk about that moment and laugh. It’s especially funny because, well, Forret’s prophecy came true.
Now 17 years old, baseball is the only organized sport he has ever played.
“I just stuck with it,” he said.
Today Forret is a 6-foot-4, 175-pound junior pitcher for the Providence High Panthers, this year’s SoMECK7 4A conference champions. Providence (12-2), seeded No. 1 in the 4A playoffs, opens the postseason at home against Jamestown’s Ragsdale High (9-5) on Tuesday. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.
And in stacked pitching rotation at his school, Forret has been the standout, having thrown not one, but two no-hitters this season.
Not only that, but the ace pitcher is already on his way to the next level, having committed to play for head coach Cliff Godwin and the East Carolina Pirates when he graduates in the spring of 2022.
“I think he picked a good school and a great coach,” Providence head coach Danny Hignight said. “I think that’s a great environment for him.”
Despite how bright his own future is, Forret said he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I’m super excited (about ECU), for sure,” he said. “But I’m just super focused right now on trying to go out and win a state championship.”
With a 7-3 win over South Mecklenburg last Thursday, Forret’s Panthers won their sixth consecutive conference title.
And though he didn’t pitch that game — one of his no-hitters came just a few days prior in a 10-0 win over the Sabres — Forret will be a crucial player in a postseason pitching rotation that includes senior Liberty commit Jeremy Beamon and junior South Carolina commit Eli Jerzembeck. With all that pitching talent, the Panthers could make a state championship run.
But this time last year, there was no state championship. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading the N.C. High School Athletic Association to cancel all statewide spring sport championships, a then-sophomore Forret was stuck at home like everybody else.
Even though he wasn’t allowed to compete on the field, the situation didn’t keep Forret from his passion.
“(I was) still working out all the time,” Forret said. “So doing everything to do with baseball, working at least five days a week on it. If you go through my YouTube feed, you’re going to see nothing but baseball, college highlights and everything. So, always baseball, every single day.
“Every day I wake up, I’m always thinking baseball, whether it’s on the front of my mind, back of my mind — what I can do to become better that day.”
All that hard work during the pandemic-lengthened offseason seems to have paid off.
Forret and the Panthers have trounced opponents left and right this season, outscoring opponents 123-36. Two important conference wins — against Olympic in May and South Meck in June — were Forret’s no-hitters.
But he’s not perfect. In the Panthers’ second game of the season, a non-conference stand against West Forsyth, he did give up a hit.
Hignight said he’s always known Forret could be a great player. He attributed much of his success to how Forret conducts himself as a player, whether that’s on the mound or in the clubhouse, leading his team and learning more about his own play.
“He’s a class act on the field and off it,” Hignight said. “The way he approaches every practice and every game is extremely professional. He’s just a super coachable player.”
“And he’s a bulldog,” Hignight continued. “He’s tough, he’s got some nails in him.”
Providence sits atop a challenging 4A west playoff bracket that includes the undefeated Hough Huskies at the No. 4 seed, 12-1 McDowell at the No. 2 seed and rival Ardrey Kell at No. 10.
“I’m feeling nothing but a lot of good momentum and positive energy going into this,” Forret said. “I definitely think we have a really, really, really good chance of walking out of this season with a state championship title.”
But Forret isn’t looking ahead at any one game, just like he isn’t looking ahead to his future at ECU.
“Having Coach Hignight (and the rest of the coaching staff) around me just really helps with keeping my head on straight,” Forret said. “They’re working me hard and trying to help me become the best baseball player I can end up being.”
Sure, Forret’s future is bright, but so is his present. Not every team wins six straight conference titles and carries that much momentum into the postseason. The Panthers have what it takes to make a title push, and Forret said he wants to be an important part of that.
“I definitely consider myself a workhorse,” Forret said. “My goal when I step on the rubber is to give my team a chance to win.
“I just do everything I can for the team so we can walk away with a win.”