Adairsville, which had made the playoffs five years running, made a valiant attempt in the regular season's dying days, but the Tigers found themselves on the outside of the state's red-rope party -- leaving just Cartersville as the lone local participant in regards to May baseball.
The Purple Hurricanes (24-7) managed a 16th straight season of 20-plus wins under coach Stuart Chester, but even the county's royal baseball team dealt with rebuilding -- on its terms, of course.
Cartersville returned few starters this season and even though it overcame that seeming lack of experience -- reaching the state quarterfinals once again -- the Canes fell short of a region championship. That hadn't happened for Cartersville since 2005.
There it is, that year again, the last time the Canes partied by themselves without any Bartow friends.
Since then, Adairsville has made the state playoffs five times, Cass and Woodland thrice and Excel once.
Woodland entered the year having broken a three-year playoff drought last season -- and with six returning starters. It wasn't enough, however, for the Wildcats (13-13) who finished seventh in the Region 7-AAAA standings.
Region mate and crosstown rival Cass (14-12) also appeared to be on good footing entering the year, with a core group of veterans, but finished a game behind Woodland in the region -- though the Colonels did enjoy a sixth straight winning season.
For the aforementioned Tigers, as well as Excel, there was no winning mark to speak of. Adairsville (10-13) returned a county-low two starters, but finished the year with five wins in eight games, a testament to improvement from the fresh-faced team -- and hope, perhaps, of things to come.
While the Tigers began slowly, the Eagles of Excel (2-19) opened quickly, with a doubleheader sweep -- briefly erasing memories of a winless 2011. Things didn't remain as positive as that March 5 day, though, with Excel faltering in region play for a second year, en route to another long, winding, season-ending skid.
The overall play of teams from the county doesn't figure to remain as it was in 2012 -- it was, after all, a mere blip in a six-year stretch of brilliant Bartow baseball. With the landscape in Georgia High School Association sports shifting next season -- there will be six classifications, no longer five -- opportunities abound for the hopeful and determined clubs prevalent in the county.
Besides, with players coming up through Bartow like the ones listed below, it'll be hard to limit the locals to just one playoff entrant per year. Here are the players for The Daily Tribune News All-County Baseball Team, including player of the year Michael Goss and pitcher of the year Kendall Hawkins, both of Cartersville.
Michael Goss, Cartersville senior
It isn't clear when Goss emerged as the Canes' best hitter, but truth be told it may have become evident after he missed a highly anticipated April matchup with eventual Region 7-AAA champion and state championship finalist Ringgold. Cartersville suffered its only shutout of the season, 5-0, without its cleanup hitter. It was the sort of thing that stood little chance of happening with Goss in the lineup. The senior first baseman posted a .532 batting average this year -- tops on the team and in the county -- and recorded 28 RBIs, three home runs and 11 walks. Goss had 42 hits, tied for the team high, a .604 on-base percentage and an .832 slugging percentage in 79 at bats. During the Georgia High School Association state playoffs, the performance of the Samford (Ala.) University signee got even better as Goss collected 12 hits in 16 at bats, a .750 average, while helping lead the Canes back to the state quarterfinals.
Connor Law, Cass senior
Ever the Southern gentleman off the field, Law was brimming with quite the intensity on the field. A firestarter for the Colonels' offense, Law, a senior second baseman, paced the team in nearly every offensive category, including average (.402), RBIs (24), hits (33), doubles (15), home runs (5) and walks (13). In 82 at-bats, Law had a .475 OBP and .768 slugging percentage as well. He has signed with Andrew College in Cuthbert where he hopes to replicate some of his finer moments as a prep -- including a two-run homer this year to help Cass win its home finale and secure its sixth straight winning season. Law was selected to the 7-AAAA All-Region Second Team this year.
Tripp Jamieson, Cartersville junior
Another one of the Canes' biggest contributors in the state playoffs, Jamieson hit at a clip of around .450 for much of the season, settling in at .442 to end the year. He placed behind Goss in that regard, but the junior third baseman tied for the team lead in hits with 42, in 95 at bats, and led Cartersville in RBIs with 38. He smacked four home runs, drew 12 walks and had a .509 OBP and .716 slugging percentage. Jamieson figures to be a prominent player for the Canes next season as they try again for state title No. 6. Earlier this month, Jamieson was selected to play with Team Georgia in the 16th annual Junior Sunbelt Classic in McAlester, Okla.
Camden McGill, Woodland junior
In two years' time, McGill has elevated his status from a precocious contributor for a Wildcat state playoff team last season to one of the best players currently suiting up around the county. In 91 at bats this year, the Woodland shortstop delivered 35 hits, a team high, which included nine doubles and two homers. He also led the team with seven stolen bases, while his average of .380 was second among Wildcats. McGill, a junior in 2012, drove in 13 RBIs, drew seven walks and had an OBP of .440 and a slugging percentage of .570. He scored 24 runs, the most on the team.
Asa Williams, Cartersville senior
When you have hitters at the bottom of your lineup like Williams, consider yourself well stocked on offense. The Canes' masked man produced 20 hits in 74 at bats, an average of .270, and drove in 15 runs while adding two home runs and 16 walks. In addition to those numbers, the senior catcher had an OBP of .427 and a slugging percentage of .432.
Robert Harris, Woodland senior
A career leader for the Wildcats in several offensive categories, Harris was up to his old tricks again, leading the team in average (.410), home runs (5), doubles (8) and RBIs (28). Harris, who has signed to play for the College of Charleston, connected for 32 hits in 79 at bats, tacking on 12 walks for a .479 OBP. Harris slugged .750 and was the type of hard-nosed player coach Corey Gochee said any coach would like to have more of. On the mound, Harris went 5-2 with a 2.06 earned-run average, 67 strikeouts and 17 walks. He was picked as a pitcher for the 7-AAAA All-Region First Team.
Beau Benefield, Cartersville junior
That Benefield delivered as one of the best players in the county speaks directly to his efficiency. More of a part-time starter, the junior outfielder made the most of his playing time -- and 58 at bats. Benefield batted .397 with 23 hits, 17 RBIs, one homer and seven walks. His OBP for the season was .449 and he ended up with a .638 slugging percentage, while also adding 22 runs.
Zach Ross, Cartersville senior
Equally brilliant for his highlight reel-worthy defense as well as his abilities as a leadoff hitter, Ross sat at the top of the Cartersville leaderboard in terms of home runs and runs scored, with six and 38, respectively. He hit .389 with 27 RBIs and 18 walks, and his .526 OBP placed him second on the team. Ross, who produced 35 hits in 90 at bats, also had a slugging percentage of .756. After saving a number of hits during his time roaming center field at Richard Bell Field, the senior is set to continue his playing career at another pretty spectacular park -- Tusculum College's Pioneer Park in the northeast portion of Tennessee.
Brandon Etheridge, Cass sophomore
A solid player throughout the season, Etheridge never ceased in working to better his game. He came on strong toward the end of the year, landing him a spot on the 7-AAAA All-Region Second Team. Etheridge, a sophomore, hit .356 -- 26 hits in 73 at bats -- and added 12 RBIs as well as 11 walks. The Colonels' outfielder, who had eight doubles and five stolen bases, reached based at a .455 clip and slugged .493. As a pitcher, Etheridge recorded two saves with a 3.45 ERA in nine appearances. Etheridge's year also was highlighted by his selection to the Team Georgia Sophomore Elite Top 40. His addition to the all-county baseball team follows up an honorable mention to the all-county football team for the two-sport athlete and Cass quarterback.
Cody Kremer, Adairsville senior
Following a season where he topped the 100-strikeout mark, Kremer seemed well on his way to that sort of year again when some discomfort relegated him to his other position for the Tigers as an everyday third baseman. He eventually returned to take the mound for his team, though. Even with 25 2/3 innings pitched, the University of Georgia signee struck out the third most batters in the county, recording 55 Ks. He went 2-0, allowing not a single earned run while issuing nine walks and surrendering 12 hits -- a WHIP of 0.82.
Tyler Will, Cartersville senior
For a team looking to replace its two frontline starters from the previous season, Will turned out to be a rather positive development for the Canes. He went 4-1 with an ERA of 1.67, striking out 40 batters and walking 19 in 46 innings. Opponents' average against him was .178, which was the best among Cartersville pitchers with more than 11 innings pitched. The senior surrendered 28 hits during the season and pitched well in the state playoffs.
Kendall Hawkins, Cartersville senior
Hawkins handled a difficult task with the poise a coach would expect of his No. 1 starter. The Canes hurler moved to the forefront of the rotation and even with all eyes on him -- Cartersville fans' and often scouts' -- the senior delivered. In 61 2/3 innings, Hawkins posted an 11-2 record and 1.93 ERA, with 23 walks, 42 hits and a team-high 61 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .194 against the Kennesaw State-bound pitcher.
HONORABLE MENTION -- ADAIRSVILLE: Cody Melton; CARTERSVILLE: Austin Adams, Trey Graves, Connor Justus, Jojo Underwood, Brandon Wells and Michael Willard; CASS: Sam Ayers, Tyler Gates, Dalton Parham, Noah Sims and Dylan Williams; EXCEL CHRISTIAN: Alex Berrey, Lane Blackwell, Mason Butt, Zach daCamara, Phillip Looney, Morgan Smith, Winston Smith and Alex Willingham; WOODLAND: Brack Bagwell, Chris Cuzzort, Blake Hall, Dalton Martin, Jordan Osteen, Luke Patterson, Mason Robinson, Hunter Siniard and Tyler Stringer.