Seconds later he jetted off just after that ball — snug in the glove of Woodward Academy’s centerfielder — came to earth when its holder landed flat on his back near the tallest part of the centerfield wall.
Before the War Eagle could get to his feet, the Cartersville Purple Hurricane, a blaze of speed that was serving as the pinch runner for designated hitter Drew Lawson, angled around third like a missile destined for home plate, soon touching its destination just ahead of the tag by the War Eagles’ Zach Wingate.
Quattlebaum’s slide broke a 3-all tie in the top of the seventh inning and helped Cartersville top Woodward Academy, 4-3, and advance to the Elite 8 round of the state high school baseball playoffs where they will play Dodge in Eastman on Tuesday.
Cartersville had defeated Woodward, 4-1, in the Wednesday night game of their best-of-three series to force Thursday’s Game 3. Woodward won the first matchup, 7-3.
Cane coach Stuart Chester said the slide by Quattlebaum not only won the game for Cartersville but let the youngster come back from an earlier play.
“Marc ... missed a sign earlier ... and cost us,” Chester said. “It couldn’t be any more fitting for him to come back and score like he did. He’s got speed. He’s almost like a wild horse. You have to chain him down because he just wants to go, go, go.”
That slide took some deft navigational skills, too.
“The catcher had the plate blocked,” Chester said. “[Mark] saw an opening and went in there and made it.”
Quattlebaum had gotten on base as a pinch runner for Lawson, a catcher who was serving as a designated hitter for the Canes and had singled his way onto first base. Quattlebaum was moved into scoring position the next play on a single by Hayes Linn.
Then Fowler hit his towering sacrifice fly just shy of the centerfield wall and the Canes broke a tie that had lasted three innings to take their first lead of the game.
Cartersville’s Garrett Rutledge pitched the bottom of the seventh to earn the victory.
Woodward held the game’s first lead. The War Eagles, designated as the home team in the third game, scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning to go up 2-0.
Cartersville responded with a run in the top of the second to close to 2-1.
Linn did the honors for the Canes, getting on base with a single to centerfield. He moved to third on a double by Fowler then scored when the War Eagles threw a wild pitch with Beau Benefield at the plate.
Woodward answered with their own run in the third inning, for a 3-1 lead.
Cartersville got back in the scoring habit in the fourth when Clifton Dempsey crossed home plate after a single by Austin Adams. Dempsey had bunted his way on base, then moved to second when Tripp Jamieson singled.
Jamieson later tied the game when JoJo Underwood smacked an RBI single to leftfield.
The two teams remained knotted at 3-all until the seventh innings.
The Canes also got a big boost from their pitching tandem of Hunter Osborn and Garrett Rutledge, who surrendered three runs while giving up six hits.
The Canes scored four runs on 12 hits. Both teams were cited for an error.
“In games of emotion like this, for a 16-, 17-year-old kid it is huge,” Chester said. “Sometimes you let those emotions get to you and sometimes you don’t. They were cool and collected today and did what they were supposed to. They threw strikes and let our defense play.”
Another key for the Canes was the fact the team kept it’s offensive motor running.
“I kept telling them when we were down 2-0, 3-1, that 3’s not going to win it, so let’s keep hammering. Let’s keep going and they did that,” Chester said.
He said the team showed a lot by focusing on its offense.
“I don’t know that we got many breaks or that we created many of them, but to come out on top in games like that, you build a lot of character.”
He said the victory was against a good baseball team.
“Woodward [comes] from a region with Blessed Trinity and St. Pius,” he said. “They beat St. Pius and split with them. They played Blessed Trinity two close, close games. It’s a very good ball club.”
He said Cartersville now needs to turn to its next series.
“At this point in time, confidence is done on the field,” Chester said. “We feel good. We’ve just got to get iced up and get ready and go see what we can do the next round.”
He said he doesn’t have to worry about the focus on his senior-laden squad.
“That’s really not a problem with these guys,” he said. “They love academics and they want to graduate and all that, but I’m telling you right now they love Cartersville baseball.”