A long day turned into two wins for the Cartersville Hurricanes Friday in the Rawlings Select Classic at LakePoint. The Canes beat Dunwoody 8-1 and Pepperell 10-0 after waking up early and heading to the field for a long practice session before they even kicked off the doubleheader.
“We didn’t get to practice Wednesday due to all the weather and tornado warnings and so forth, so we came out and practiced at 9 o’clock this morning,” Cartersville coach Stuart Chester said. “The kids, they responded well today.”
The wins moved Cartersville into the final of the tournament, although there might not be a champion crowned after region rival Sandy Creek won the other semifinal. Teams from the same region cannot play a non-region game in the regular season.
Either way, the Canes will take the winning streak.
A fourth-inning rally and a dominant start from Mason Barnett proved to be a winning formula for Cartersville in Game 1.
Behind a one-run, six-inning performance from Barnett and a six-run third-inning rally, the Hurricanes (18-6, 5-2 Region 5-AAAA) cruised to an 8-1 win in their second game of the Perfect Game Rawlings Select Classic tournament against Dunwoody.
“We had a different approach [from yesterday],” Chester said. “We came and practiced at 9 o’clock and then we came and hit again at 1 o’clock so we’ve basically been doing baseball all day. Mentally, I think our approach was different, so I think that was the difference.”
Barnett came to the mound looking shaky in the first inning for Cartersville, but worked around a hit and a walk to come out untouched.
In the second, he gave up a leadoff single, which would be the last hit he gave up.
He retired the next 13 batters he faced into the sixth inning before losing his command, hitting two batters and walking two for his only run of the game.
Barnett exited after allowing the one run on just two hits over his six innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
“Mason, he’s been money all year,” Chester said. “I think he got a little winded and started squeezing a little bit and in those situations you’ve got to pitch and let your defense take over.”
Offensively, Cartersville gave Barnett and Jacob Fowler, who pitched the seventh, much more than they needed.
In the first two innings, Cartersville had five baserunners but stranded four of them before breaking the game open with six in the third.
That started with a leadoff walk to Devin Warner, his second walk of the day in a 1-for-2 game, and was followed with a walk, a sac bunt with an errant throw and another walk before Fowler and Spencer Dickey, who went 3-for-3 on the day with two RBIs, delivered the only two hits of the rally, a single and double respectively.
“Spencer, he’s a four-year guy, just a fine young man,” Chester said. “He’s not going to come up and flash you to death and put stars in your eyes but he’s going to get the job done. He’s hot at the plate.”
Cartersville scored just two more runs on the day with a leadoff double in the sixth from Anthony Siegler to break an 0-for-8 stretch and Warner’s single helping to bring him home.
Then Barnett finished his stellar day with an RBI single of his own in place of designated hitter J.P. Martin.
It was more of the same in the second game, as Martin and John Reed Evans combined for the shutout and the Canes broke out with five runs in the second and five more in the fourth to mercy-rule Pepperell.
Warner had the big blow, a three-run homer while hitting from the right side of the plate in the fourth to make it 9-0.
The Dragons are coached by former Cartersville coach and player Matt Montgomery, adding a nostalgic element to the victory.
“Matt Montgomery, I love him. He was the catcher on our first-ever state championship baseball team in 2001,” Chester said. “He’s like a son to me.”
Martin hit two of the first three batters he faced in the top of the first, but retired the side from there on a strikeout and a groundout to second, and was generally untouchable for the rest of his four innings.
Martin struck out two in each of the second and third before giving up his first hit with one out in the fourth.
That runner would be erased on a weird play to end the inning when Warner at shortstop bobbled a ball, charging it and kicking it all the way past the pitcher’s mound. The runner at first turned second and headed for third, but the ball headed right for the catcher Seigler, who retrieved it and threw the runner out at third.
That was as much drama as there would be in the game, as the Canes put up a crooked number early.
With one out in the second, Martin singled and stole second, avoiding a throw that had him beat with a tricky slide into the bag.
Jake Gooch walked, and Jordan Wilkie’s routine fly ball to right was dropped by the Dragons’ outfielder, who recovered to throw Gooch, who was heading back to first, out at second.
With runners on first and third, Preston Welchel opened the scoring by hooking a two-run double into the right-field corner.
That opened up the floodgates, as Welchel scored on Seigler’s RBI single, Warner walked, and Noah Daniel singled to score another run.
The Canes added their last tally of the inning as Daniel broke for second base and the throw deflected off the shortstop’s glove into center field, allowing Warner to trot home from third.
After a lull during a 1-2-3 third inning, the Cartersville bats woke up again in the fourth, providing the final margin.
Wilkie led off with a double, Welchel reached on an error and Seigler singled to score another run.
With runners on first and third, Warner then cleared the bases, driving a 1-1 pitch down the line and over the fence in left field.
“We haven’t seen any left-handers, so he’s basically been hitting lefthanded all year long,” Chester said about his powerful switch-hitter. “Today we saw a couple left-handers and, you know, he’s got power from both sides and the only other one I can remember that has hit home runs from both sides is Russ Mitchell, and of course he was in Major League Baseball.”
That made it 9-0, and Daniel would score the run-rule-inducing tally on two errors, as he got to second when the shortstop threw his grounder away and scored when the first baseman threw the ball past third as Daniel tried to advance on Dickey’s groundout.
“If we hit one through nine, we can score some runs, and that’s what we’ve been doing, so it was good to see that today,” Chester said.
John Reed Evans relieved Martin and got three straight outs in the fifth for a quick end to a long day for the Canes.
Cartersville will play Centennial (Roswell) today at 2 p.m. in the finale—although not the final—of the Rawlings Select Classic.