That’s especially true with St. Pius, the Canes’ Monday and possibly Tuesday opponent in the semifinals of the Class AAA Georgia High School Association.
Coach Stuart Chester is expecting a quality challenge from the Golden Lions, another representative of the schools that play ball in Region 6-AAA.
The Canes already had a taste of that quality when they met Woodward Academy, which hung the only loss that Cartersville has tasted since the regular season concluded.
“They’re a good baseball team,” Chester said of St. Pius. “They’re well coached. They execute and they play good defense. They’ve got a couple of good pitchers.”
The two teams have both played Woodward Academy.
St. Pius split its games with Woodward Academy, defeating them, 6-4, on April 10 and losing to them, 7-4, on April 24.
Cartersville tangled with a fired-up Woodward Academy the first game in round two of the state playoffs, falling 4-1. Cartersville, in a signature response, answered with a 7-3 ninth inning victory for its first win in Game 2 of the playoff round and then claimed a 4-3 victory in the final inning of Game 3.
St. Pius also has met one frequent Cartersville opponent who plays its ball a bit closer to home.
“St. Pius, Ringgold and Etowah had a get together about a week [the three teams met March 9] after the season started,” Chester said. “It was one of those [matchups] where everybody plays and pitches.”
The Golden Lions walked off with a 14-9 victory in that environment.
Cartersville won both of its games against Ringgold, a 4-2 victory on March 28 and a 5-3 win on April 15.
Both St. Pius and Cartersville have impressive records.
St. Pius has earned 25 victories against nine losses overall and is 11-3 in Region 6A-AAA. The Golden Lions have 14 shutouts against their opponents — twice in the playoffs — and have been the victim of shutouts twice. They score an average of eight runs per game and allow two runs. They are 6-3 in the playoffs, defeating Buford, North Oconee, and Pike County twice each while losing once to each.
The Golden Lions have played a tough lineup, too, but reached that through a tough conference schedule as well as some challenging nonregion opponents.
The Purple Hurricanes have outslugged, outdefensed, outran and frequently outpitched a bevy of teams who compose one of the toughest regular-season lineups in their history.
Even against that lineup of talent, Cartersville was able to collect victories 26 times against seven losses. Indeed, six of those seven losses were to teams who play ball in higher divisions than the Purple Hurricanes. The sole loss to an AAA school came in the state playoffs, where the Canes fell 4-1 in their series opener against Woodward Academy but then picked themselves up to win two straight.
Their other two playoff series were sweeps.
The Canes are 26-7 overall and 14-0 in Region 5B-AAA. Ten of their wins were by shutout this season, including one in the playoffs. They have been victims of shutouts twice. They score an average of seven runs per outing while giving up two runs.
Chester said his team now expects a challenge each time it takes the diamond.
“You get this far and everybody’s good,” Chester said. “You have to worry about yourself and make sure we execute and work on the things we need to work on. You’re down to one week of baseball being left or it’s over. We’ll find out Monday.”
He said motivation has not been an issue since the playoffs began.
“We just try to keep them healthy and watered down,” he said. “If you have to get them up when they’re playing at this point, there’s no need of them playing anyway.”
The team still standing after Cartersville and St. Pius complete their best-of-three series Monday and Tuesday will next suit up against the victor of the North Hall vs. Blessed Trinity series.
Games times are 5 p.m. and about 7:30 p.m. Monday with a Tuesday game at 5 p.m. if necessary.