The Cartersville High baseball team breezed through its first-round Class 4A state playoff series, sweeping Redan at Richard Bell Field and outscoring its opponent 23-3 in the two games.
However, the Canes are ready for a tougher test in the second round and will travel to Thomson today at 5 p.m. for a doubleheader against the 21-7 Bulldogs.
“They have some tradition. They just put out hard-nosed kids and have the talent. It’s a very competitive school athletic-wise,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “They’re No. 1 in the region and they’re in there with Wayne [County] and those guys. You have 16 teams left, so there’s only good teams left.”
Game 3 game of the series will also be held at 5 p.m. at Thomson, if necessary. The winner of the Cartersville-Thomson series will take on the winner of Bainbridge-Buford in the quarterfinals with that series beginning May 10.
The Thomson Bulldogs went 9-1 in Region 3-AAAA this season, splitting two games with second-place Wayne County, which Cartersville beat last season in the state quarterfinals on a walk-off hit by Carrington Evans in Game 3.
Thomson hosted Upson-Lee in the first round of the state playoffs and had a much tougher time advancing than Cartersville had, winning by a score of 2-0 in Game 1 and 5-2 in nine innings in Game 2.
“I don’t think you an put a lot of stock into run differential. ... There’s so many factors in baseball. I don’t think you can look at win-loss record. I don’t think you can look at ERAs,” Chester said of Thomson’s first-round series. “There’s some things — walk-strikeout ratio, strikeouts by a hitter — there’s some things you can put a little value in. As far as runs scored and runs not scored, I don’t know that that’s a real telltale sign for you in the playoffs.”
Thomson is led by senior Morgan Hyde, who pitched 63 innings this season and holds a 1.89 ERA. He also is the team’s leadoff hitter and leads the team in batting average at .458 with a .536 on-base percentage, 11 doubles and two triples in 96 at bats.
Cody Brown, who is committed to Georgia Military College, plays shortstop when not pitching and holds a 1.44 ERA in 53 1/3 innings on the year. Andrew College commit Hunter Norman, meanwhile, has pitched 36 2/3 innings and has a 2.10 ERA. No other pitcher on the team has pitched 13 innings or more on the year.
Hyde threw a two-hit, seven-strikeout shutout in Game 1 against Upson-Lee.
“They have two good pitchers, Hyde and Brown. They play good defense. They’re solid behind the plate. They’re a well-rounded team,” Chester said of Thomson. “[Hyde throws] hard enough. He’s mid-80s, has a good slider. He throws strikes and locates, and that’s what makes him so effective.
“I think [Brown is] about like Hyde. I think they’re very similar. He may not throw as hard, but they’re very similar in their approach and what they do and how they do it. ... They have another guy. He’s a reliever or No. 3. They have four or five guys that throw, but none the innings that Hyde and Brown have thrown.”
At the plate, Brown went 3-for-4 with a double in Game 2 against Upson-Lee. Senior Duncan Adams is hitting .415 on the year, Norman is hitting .371, while four other Bulldogs are hitting over .300.
“Hyde’s their leadoff. He’s probably their best hitter,” Chester said. “They’re pretty solid all the way through, but Hyde’s their sparkplug.”
Cartersville also has a strong and deep lineup, as evidenced by the two games against Redan in the first round. Anthony Seigler went 5-for-8 in the first-round sweep with two doubles, four runs scored and four RBIs. Elliott Anderson went 5-for-9 in the series with three doubles, five RBIs and he or his courtesy runner scored four runs. Cole Jamieson also stood out as he hit two home runs in six at bats. Cartersville’s No. 3-hole hitter, Carrington Evans, went 4-for-6 in the series with two walks, a double, three RBIs and two runs scored. Jacob Fowler, meanwhile, went 2-for-5 with a double, two walks and three runs scored.
“We’ve scrimmaged [Sunday] and [Monday],” Chester said of how he is keeping the bats hot. “We have some good underclassmen arms. The last two days, our guys through the lineup have gotten 11 or 12 at bats off of decent pitching.”
Another positive development in the Canes’ first-round series was the play of freshman catcher J.P. Martin. Martin did not take an at bat in the Redan series, but has solidified the catcher position after Seigler was hurt with a knee injury earlier in the season and has returned to playing second base when not pitching.
“[Martin] had a great, great series defensively,” Chester said. “He’s just gotten better and better and better. When Anthony got where he couldn’t catch and he had to stay in the infield, J.P. stepped up and won the job, and he’s done a great job.”
Chester said not to expect major lineup changes in the second round.
“During the season, we’ve had so many different lineups. We’re kind of are getting into the routine now, and hopefully, we’re going to play our best baseball,” he said. “Every day, every round, we’re getting healthier, more comfortable with each other.”
Cartersville made the trip to Thomson on Tuesday and Chester believes his team will travel well.
“It’s no difference. It’s like what I told them when we went to Turner Field, ‘It’s still 90 feet between the bases, and 6 feet, 6 inches rubber to plate,’” Chester said of playing the series on the road. “The dimensions don’t change that much. I try to tell the guys, ‘Let’s take the atmosphere with us when we get on the bus.’ So we try to keep it as close to Richard Bell Field feeling that you can get.”