Martin's walk-off rescues Cartersville


Add J.P. Martin to the growing list of Cartersville baseball players with walk-off hits this season.

The senior lined a one-out double to left field to score Ian Inaba from first base in the bottom of the seventh to cap a come-from-behind, 6-5 win over Sandy Creek on Wednesday at Richard Bell Field.

The Canes (20-4, 7-1) have now had walk-off wins in three of their five home Region 5-AAAA games this year. Preston Welchel cranked a two-run homer to lift Cartersville to a 2-1 win over LaGrange, and Josh Davis stroked a game-winning single in the 10th inning to top Troup County, also by a 2-1 score.

Although head coach Kyle Tucker would probably prefer to avoid the dramatics, the Canes only need a game-winning triple against Cedartown next week to complete the region walk-off cycle.

While Martin's clutch hit certainly provided a thrilling conclusion to Wednesday's contest, few would have anticipated Cartersville needing such heroics to defeat a Sandy Creek team that entered the day with a 6-19 record, including an 0-8 mark in region play.

Ironically, Martin opened the scoring with a key two-out single in the second inning. His hit brought home Mason Barnett. The senior Auburn signee had singled, moved to second on a grounder and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

The Patriots returned the favor in the top of the third, when an error and a two-out double knotted the score at 1-1.

Sandy Creek charged ahead in the fifth inning. Two singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk loaded the bases. A double knocked in two runs and a single scored another pair for a 5-1 advantage.

During the frame, Gage Morris entered in relief of Cohen Wilbanks, who had started and pitched pretty well until running into trouble in the fifth. Morris allowed the two-run single but stepped up with two huge strikeouts to end the inning.

Cartersville went right back to work to even the game up at 5-apiece. Brant Smith walk, Davis reached on catcher's interference and Wilbanks walked to load up the bags for Welchel.

The South Alabama signee continued his outstanding spring with a single to pull the Canes within 5-2. Barnett and Jordan Wilkie followed with RBI singles, as Cartersville went station to station on the basepaths. Welchel tied the game, when he scored from third on a passed ball.

Morris worked around a pair of hit batsman in the sixth and worked a flawless seventh. The Canes offense, meanwhile, wasted a bases-loaded situation in the sixth inning, but Inaba and Martin came through in the seventh.

Martin finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs; Barnett went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI; and four other players had one hit apiece. Neither Wilbanks nor Smith had a hit, but both players walked twice and scored a run.

Wilbanks struck out six over 4 1/3 innings. He allowed five hits, two walks and five runs (four earned). Three of the hits and one of the walks came in the fifth inning. Morris gave up one hit and struck out four to earn the win over 2 2/3 innings.

Cartersville will look to finish off the two-game series sweep, when the Canes travel to Sandy Creek on Friday. After that, all that remains in the regular season is two games with Cedartown, plus makeup games at Chapel Hill and home versus River Ridge.