The Canes, who hit four home runs in their first-round sweep of Oconee County, defeated Veterans 15-0 in five innings in Game 1, capitalizing on a game plan that seemed intent on preventing them from getting any good pitches to hit.
Stuart Chester, Cartersville’s head coach, acknowledged that may have been the case, while praising his players for not helping out first-game starter Lyndon Meadows, who walked six and hit two batters in a couple of innings.
“That can happen. They say, ‘Well, they’re a good-hitting ballclub. Let’s pick.’ You can get too picky, and our guys did a great job at the plate. They capitalized,” Chester said.
The Canes, who entered the day with 19 runs in their last seven innings, led 12-0 after three innings despite just three hits — Brandon Wells’ infield single, Zach Ross’ three-run single and Michael Goss’ RBI single.
The Warhawks loaded the bases in each of the first three innings, and Cartersville punished Veterans for its wayward pitching.
Ross drew a bases-loaded walk for a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, and Tripp Jamieson’s sacrifice fly gave the Canes a two-run lead.With two outs, Goss sailed a flyball to right field, which was dropped, allowing more runs for a 4-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Meadows walked three straight Cartersville batters and then hit another to bring in the fifth run of the game.
Ross’ triple to center field, which burned the Veterans outfielder, cleared the bases and gave the Canes an eight-run advantage.
Connor Justus’ grounder, Beau Benefield’s sac fly and Wells’ left-field single added to the huge lead, as Cartersville found itself up by a wide margin.
The Canes went on to score twice in the fourth and once in the fifth — on Goss’ two-run single and Ross’ RBI double, respectively — but the Warhawks seemed shell-shocked after the second inning, eventually bringing in some younger players to finish the game.
“I think they threw the towel in after it was about 9-0 and brought some guys in just to try to finish [the game], and to our advantage, we finished it early. Kendall Hawkins threw 42 or 43 pitches, which is huge,” Chester said. “We could’ve finished that game or a third game, and that’s what we preach every year and every day and every playoff is don’t give up extra outs because that’s extra pitches. If we make an error, that’s seven, eight pitches we may have to throw.
“In a three-game series, you’ve got to save arms.”
Hawkins pitched four innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out four.
Meadows gave up four earned runs and one hit in the loss and also registered one strikeout.
Ross had two hits and five RBIs for Cartersville and also walked twice. Other offensive contributors included Justus, 1 for 5, RBI; Jamieson, 1 for 4, double, RBI; Goss, 1 for 2, two RBIs, walk, hit by a pitch; Wells, 2 for 3, RBI, walk; and Asa Williams, 1 for 2, RBI, hit by pitch twice.
Ben Williams, Micah Wells and Dylan Pierce each had a hit for Veterans.
In Game 2, the Canes took an early 1-0 lead on Goss’ sac fly to center and added two more runs in the third on Jamieson’s grounder — which resulted in a run and a double play — and on Goss’ homer to left.
It was the first and only home run of the series, and essentially the only insurance Cartersville needed as it came within one out of having three straight games with a shutout, a possibility made moot when a run scored for the Warhawks came on an error.
In talking to his players afterward, Chester didn’t sound happy about the miscue, but he was equally perturbed about missed opportunities on offense.
“We didn’t capitalize on a couple of opportunities, especially in this second game,” he said. “We left too many runners on that second game.
“They did a good job laying off in the first game. I think we chased a few there in the second game.”
Goss led the Canes with two hits and two RBIs; Ross went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk; Jamieson finished 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI; and Benefield was 1 for 2 with a double and a walk.
Trey Graves pitched 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs, three walks, one hit batter, six hits and seven strikeouts.
“Trey Graves did a great job, great job … absolutely awesome,” Chester said. “I think he ran out of a little steam there at the end. To credit him, he threw strikes, and that’s our philosophy with the new bat change is let’s [not] walk people, threw strikes and let our defense play. And that’s exactly what he did. He located his curveball, he kept ‘em off balance and he did a great job locating pitches today.”
Dylan Spires took the loss for the Warhawks, lasting five innings and giving up three earned runs on five hits and five walks. He had four strikeouts.
At the plate for Veterans, Zane Conlon had two hits, including a double, and Blake Jackson, Wells (double), Pierce and Mickey Dugan had a hit apiece.
The Warhawks’ conclude their second season with a 20-10 record, while Cartersville (24-5) moves on to face an old nemesis in the state quarterfinals next Tuesday.
“When you mention the word Columbus, there’s nothing I have to do. I just have to keep ‘em healthy and make sure we get our work in in practice,” Chester said.