A year ago the Cartersville baseball team watched its bid for a third straight state championship come to an end in Columbus as the Purple Hurricanes were swept out of the quarterfinals of the GHSA playoffs.
Hoping to continue its journey for a third title in four years, the Canes -- tabbed the Georgia Dugout Club's Program of the Decade prior to the start of the season -- return to the Elite Eight this year with a potential rematch with the rival Blue Devils, defending state champs, a couple of rounds away.
Cartersville (25-4) will have to first maneuver past Spalding (27-2), which hosts the Canes in a best-of-three series. A doubleheader is scheduled for today in Griffin, with Game 1 starting at 4 p.m., and a must-win Game 3 would be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, if necessary.
And just because Cartersville -- which swept North Hall 4-3, 8-4 -- does not have to face Columbus at the present moment, do not think the baseball gods have done the Canes any favors.
The Jaguars are ranked No. 1 in the Ga.PrepCountry.com coaches' poll and are coming off a 15-4, 9-1 series sweep of Cross Creek in Round 2, where Casey Moody and Zach Lerner led the way with a pair of homers.
"We take pride in quality at-bats. We work hard in our BP sessions and our side sessions. We go up there with the mindset to swing at good pitches, and that's been our forte all year," Spalding coach Mickey Moody said. "We've been pretty disciplined at the plate and I've been pleased."
Speaking of his team's success this season, Moody added, "Obviously you set aside the talent because we're a pretty talented club ... but the kids, they work hard and they've done so since October. They're really good teammates and they play well together."
Cartersville will counter the Jaguars' dangerous lineup with its talented left-handed duo of Sam Howard and Ben Dittmer. The two seniors were not as dominant in their second-round starts against the Trojans as they were against first-round opponent Arabia Mountain. Howard and Dittmer combined for nine innings, seven earned runs, 12 hits, five walks, one hit batsmen and nine strikeouts against North Hall, as compared to 14 innings, two earned runs, six hits, two walks and 26 strikeouts against the Rams.
Of his team's approach for its quarterfinal matchup with Cartersville, Moody said, "It's [Round] 3, we're not gonna change our plan. ... We're not gonna try to do anything special. ... We're just gonna get out there and play the game like we've been taught to play."