Harris Battle’s RBI single gave the Purple Hurricanes’ the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning, and Cartersville added three more runs, which included a two-run single from Michael Willard.
Kendall Hawkins gave up a leadoff single before retiring three straight batters to end the game and the series.
The Canes won the series opener as well, taking that game 9-1.
“I thought [our players] responded well and, you know, hats off to Arabia Mountain,” Cartersville coach Stuart Chester said following the series clincher. “They threw two quality pitchers at us tonight. [Their] shortstop made some great plays, and it turned out to be a very good ball game and I think that will pay off for us in the long run. It got to the point where they tied it up, and it could go either way.”
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Rams third baseman Antonio Smith extended the game with a double to the center field wall. Pinch runner John Slaton, in for Kendrick Elder who drew a one-out walk, came around to tie the game at 2-all.
Even as Arabia Mountain found itself reinvigorated with new life, the Canes made sure the game did not last too long. Center fielder Zach Ross, who sparked Cartersville’s offense in both games, doubled to the left field wall to give his team a runner in scoring position in the eighth. Taylor Wilson then hit a ball deep to Rams shortstop Alfred Francis, beating out Francis’s throw for an infield single. As Ross and pinch runner Trey Graves stood on the corners, Battle’s hit opened up the scoring, and the Canes would not look back.
“I thought we addressed it all at the plate well all nightlong. I thought we hit it hard and hard and hard, but it was just right at ’em. This [win] goes back to [the] extra-inning game with Parkview, your tough battles like that, [which] we draw from,” Chester said, referencing a 5-4 loss in March. “But, our kids, they grew up tonight.”
Ross finished 2 for 3 (triple, double, walk) to lead Cartersville. Other hitters were Connor Justus 1 for 4 (walk); Ben Venters, 1 for 4 (double); Wilson, 1 for 2 (two walks); Battle, 1 for 4; and Willard, 1 for 4 (two RBIs).
Tevin Martin led Arabia Mountain, coming a hit shy of the cycle with his 3 for 4 performance (triple, double). Smith had the team’s other hit.
The Canes, who played as the visitors in Game 2, grabbed a one-run lead in the top of the first after Colin Bennett’s groundout to short scored Luke Daniel, who walked to reach base.
The Rams tied the game in the fourth after Cartersville pitcher Ben Dittmer made a fabulous snag of a rocket shot back to the mound. Dittmer’s throw, however, hit the dirt and bounced into the body of Bennett as Martin, who had a leadoff triple, knotted the game at 1.
Arabia Mountain watched the Canes retake the lead in the sixth as Ross burned the Rams’ defense, which shifted to the right, with a one-out triple to left. Wilson hit a run-scoring groundout to bring home Ross and give Cartersville a 2-1 lead.
Arabia Mountain’s Jordan Scott pitched eight innings with six hits, five walks and five strikeouts.
Dittmer continued the Canes’ solid pitching in the nightcap of the doubleheader, following Game 1 starter Sam Howard’s complete game effort with a seven-inning, 11-strikeout gem. He gave up one earned run and one hit before giving way to Hawkins, who struck out and gave up one hit in his only inning of work.
“I thought Sam and Ben both did a great job. They kept ’em off balance; they threw strikes,” Chester said. “Whether the offense came around or not, they were keeping us in the game and giving us an opportunity to win and that’s huge.”
Cartersville picked up a convincing 9-1 victory in Game 1 of its first-round sweep, though it did not start that way.
The Canes led by just one run 2 1/2 innings into the game, but broke things open in the bottom of the third. That’s when Ross’s two-run triple and Wilson’s RBI single pushed Cartersville’s lead to 4-0.
Venters’ second sacrifice fly of the game — he also had one in the first — added another run to the Canes’ tally for a 5-0 lead in the fifth.
In the sixth, Willard smoked a two-run home run to left, Venters nearly missed a homer with his RBI double off the right-field wall and Bennett hit a run-scoring groundout to close out Cartersville’s scoring.
Getting more hits — two — in its final half-inning than it had in the other six combined, Arabia Mountain plated its singular run of the game on T.J. Card’s RBI hit up the middle.
With Howard on the mound, Cartersville could afford to take some time getting its offense going. Howard struck out the side three times en route to a three-hit, 15-strikeout outing. He gave up one earned run and one walk in seven innings.
Rams starter John Bryant gave up nine earned runs on nine hits, three walks and one hit batter in five innings. He struck out three. Jordan Mitchell gave up one hit in one inning.
Leading the way for the Canes at the plate were Daniel, 3 for 4 (double); Venters, 1 for 3 (walk, three RBIs); Bennett, 1 for 3 (hit by pitch, RBI); Ross, 1 for 3 (walk, triple, two RBIs); Wilson, 2 for 4 (RBI); Michael Goss, 1 for 3; and Willard, 1 for 3 (home run, two RBIs).
Card, Francis and Smith each had a hit for the Rams.
No. 1-seeded Cartersville now can gear up for its second-round opponent, whom it will host at Richard Bell Field Wednesday for a doubleheader and possibly Thursday. The Canes play the winner of the LaGrange-North Hall series.
Chester said his team will benefit from ending its series Friday as opposed to doing so Saturday.
“You don’t waste any pitching,” he explained. “That gives you … three days’ rest for the guy that went that you may have to use Wednesday. It helps with the pitching a lot.”
And, as it demonstrated against Arabia Mountain, Cartersville’s pitching will be invaluable in its quest for title No. 6.