Purple Hurricanes face North Hall for state baseball title
by David Royal
May 25, 2013 | 1154 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville’s baseball team will be trying for the seventh time in 12 years to win a state championship against North Hall.

But it’s still the first time the current team’s 14 seniors — seven of them returning starters — had such a big leadership role in winning the playoff games that carried the team to the championship series with hopes of winning the title a sixth time.

Head coach Stuart Chester said the Cartersville community has been stepping up to express congratulations to and support for the Canes for the accomplishment.

“It’s been a good week,” he said. “I enjoy it for the kids. They are excited. I’m glad to see it because it’s the first time for our seniors.

“I’m telling them to enjoy every moment of it.”

Chester gives those seniors high marks for their response thus far, saying they have remained focused on playing in the series despite whatever else is going on.

That even includes graduation for those seniors as well as listening to the comments of well-wishers.

“They’re handling it very well,” Chester said. “Their priority through it all has been to win the state championship.”

The next big step in that journey occurs today when Cartersville visits North Hall to play a doubleheader that starts with the first game at 5 p.m. and the second one starting 30 minutes after its conclusion. A third game is slated to start at 5 p.m. Monday if necessary.

Both teams appear very capable of winning the series.

Chester noted North Hall has had a successful run through the playoffs.

“They’re here for a reason,” Chester said. “They’ve had some good series. They play good defense. They throw strikes and put the ball in play.”

The Trojans also have some talented pitching.

It starts with Preston Graham, who went 12-2 with a 1.28 ERA this season.

Graham threw 113 strikeouts during the season and has recorded three complete-game shutouts in the playoffs. The crowning gem for Graham likely was the 1-0 shutout he hurled in the first game against Blessed Trinity.

There’s nothing like introducing yourself to the state’s No. 1-ranked baseball team with a one-hitter, but Graham also earned the win in relief in their Game 3 matchup.

North Hall will likely turn to Colton Duttweiler in Game 2. Duttweiler earned an 11-1 record on the season with a 1.21 ERA.

The Trojans have an 8-2 record in their state playoff games, their losses coming to Pierce County (3-2) and Blessed Trinity (8-5).

North Hall has an overall record of 32-4 with a 20-1 record in Region 7-AAA. They averaged eight runs per game while allowing just one.

Cartersville has an equally impressive record in the playoffs as well as the regular season.

The Canes are 8-1 in the playoffs, their single loss coming at the hands of Woodward Academy, 4-1, in Game 1 of their second-round series.

Cartersville has a 28-7 overall record and is 14-0 in Region 5B-AAA.

It scored an average of seven runs per outing while giving up two runs.

Chester noted Cartersville has had a challenging year.

“It helps to have the adversity we put them through,” he said. “We played a tough non-region schedule and went to Florida and played some tough teams.

“Then we had a tough round against Woodward Academy [in the playoffs]. It’s been a very good experience.”

All eight of Cartersville’s Georgia non-region opponents were from upper divisions, with the Canes going 5-3 against that tough assembly of talent. The Canes also played four highly regarded teams from Florida, going 1-3 against the best that state had to offer in April.

But as good as that opposition was, Chester said, the normal truths of baseball still apply at this stage of the state playoffs.

“I don’t care how good you are,” Chester said Friday, “in order to win you have to be healthy, and you have to have some breaks. We will have to have some breaks to win [today] against North Hall.”

Today’s matchup will be the first time Cartersville and North Hall have played since 2011.

The two teams met in Round 2 of the state playoffs that year, the Canes sweeping the Trojans aside in two games by scores of 4-3 and 8-4.