However, the fact remains the Purple Hurricanes don't often lose two baseball games in a row, and with the loss last week eliminating Cartersville's chances at a Region 7-AAA championship, the tenants of Richard Bell Field had no intent on letting the slide reach three -- especially with one of their fiercest rivals visiting Monday in Allatoona.
The Canes fell behind in the top of the first inning but rebounded with leadoff home runs in each of their two half-innings to start the game as they went on to collect 11 hits in a 5-2 victory to secure their region's No. 2 seed on a gusty evening.
As well as Cartersville played offensively -- the Canes tagged Clemson signee Clate Schmidt with the loss -- coach Stuart Chester pointed to his team's all-around play.
"It was a great performance all the way around -- Connor Justus playing at shortstop, the plays he made -- and I thought Zach Ross played great in center [field]. Defensively, we did what we're supposed to," Chester said. "Kendall Hawkins did a great job on the mound; we had a good approach at the plate; and it's good to put together a game like that after getting beat by Ringgold last Friday."
Cartersville managed four hits against the Tigers and committed four errors, but the Canes' defense got them out of a jam in the first.
Allatoona opened with three hits, including A.J. Hart's RBI single to right, but the Buccaneers failed to push any more runs across the plate. Cartersville catcher Asa Williams gunned down Nick Hall on a steal attempt at second base. Hawkins then trotted to first base after a comebacker to the mound, recording the final out of the inning himself before continuing his jog to the Canes' dugout.
Just as the Bucs' Austin Rogers had led the game off with a hit, jumping on the first pitch he saw, Ross, Cartersville's leadoff hitter, didn't wait long to take a healthy cut at Schmidt's pitches. Ross evened things up by sending Schmidt's third offering high in the air to left. With the wind blowing, the baseball floated over the fence for Cartersville's first run.
Michael Willard must have liked what he saw from his teammate because, like Ross, he too began an inning with a homer to left in the second. His no-doubt shot gave the Canes' a 2-1 lead against Schmidt.
Chester noted he wanted his players to take a swing the first hittable fastball they saw from Schmidt, an aggressive approach that paid dividends for Cartersville.
"The first fastball we saw, we were wanting to swing at it," he said. "We didn't want to get ourselves in the hole and then the slider come in there and carve us up some, so we were trying to jump on the fastball, the first one we saw."
The Canes produced nearly half their hits in the first three innings but had no more than a one-run lead thanks to inning-ending double plays in the second and third innings.
Those missed opportunities caught up with Cartersville in the fourth when Allatoona pulled back into a 2-2 deadlock on Marlon Melendez's double to right, which scored Michael Royal who walked with two outs.
The Canes also displayed their knack for the two-out run in the fifth. They broke the game open with three consecutive two-out hits to reclaim the lead, starting with doubles from Tripp Jamieson and Michael Goss to right and left, respectively -- balls that did some tricky things in the air. Jamieson's run-scoring hit appeared headed for the gap but blew even further to right to drive in pinch runner Hayes Linn. Goss then replaced Jamieson at second when his hit carried all the way to the left-field wall. Jojo Underwood's seeing-eye single to left scored Goss, who slid under a reach-back tag attempt from catcher Allex Terry.
Cartersville's three-run lead held up with Hawkins inducing a key 1-6-3 double play to negate a hit batter to start the sixth. The Kennesaw State-bound pitcher then recorded three straight outs before issuing a walk in the seventh. With two outs, Hawkins got Allatoona's Hart to ground out to Justus at short as the Canes' junior stepped on second for the final out.
The victory went to Hawkins, who helped Cartersville complete a season sweep of the Bucs with his complete-game, five-hit effort. He registered six strikeouts, walked three and hit a batter.
Schmidt gave up 10 hits and five earned runs in defeat, also striking out five in six innings. Lucas Brown finished his lone inning on the mound with two strikeouts and one hit.
Hitters for Cartersville were Ross, 1 for 3 (home run); Justus, 2 for 3; Jamieson, 1 for 3 (double, RBI); Goss, 2 for 3 (double, RBI); Underwood, 1 for 3 (RBI); Willard, 1 for 3 (home run); Austin Adams, 2 for 3; and Williams, 1 for 3.
Rogers, Hart, and Melendez each had a hit for Allatoona, while Hall connected for two, including a double.
Afterward, Chester lauded his team for having the right mindset following last weekend, which included the Canes' annual game at Turner Field where each player sees action for an inning or two.
"We've been preaching for the last two weeks about mental preparation and being mentally tough, just coming out and doing the things you do as individuals that is a mental part of the game, and they did that today," he said. "[Sunday] we had a good practice. After getting beat on Friday, [we] then had the Saturday game at Turner Field where we kind of let our hair down and relax a little bit. ... For them to mentally prepare like they did [Sunday] and be prepared [Monday], it's just an attribute that these kids have of staying focused and getting ready to play."
Cartersville entered the game in the 2-spot and probably could have claimed the spot even with a defeat to the Bucs, as long as it won its last two games and didn't lose by more than five runs to Allatoona. Even knowing that, the Canes' head coach figured plenty would be on the line for likely the last-ever meeting between the schools as region rivals.
"It is a rivalry and it's bragging rights for our seniors to go out like that, but we look at, more importantly, that it's a playoff atmosphere, it's a playoff team, and it gives you a little bit of momentum going into next week," said Chester, whose team won the first game against Allatoona this season, 5-0, on March 29.
Only a deep run by both teams in the Class AAA state playoffs would guarantee another matchup between the two, but that doesn't discount the possibility of any potential meetings in the near future, Chester pointed out.
"If they got any open games [next year], we'll put 'em on the schedule. It's [a] short [trip], they'll be [AAAAA]. It'll be good competition for us, and we can keep that rivalry going, tactfully," he added of the intense rivalry between the two schools, which are separated by about 12 miles.