The Canes, trailing by one run in most of Game 2 against host North Hall, demonstrated the heart of a champion when it mattered most and, as a result, can finally call themselves state champions for the first time since 2009.
First baseman Tripp Jamieson’s walkoff single to right field clinched a sixth state title for Cartersville, which defeated the Trojans 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh.
Jamieson, among 14 seniors on the team, noted his team has performed pretty well under similar situations.
“We’re pretty solid under pressure,” he said after giving the Canes only lead they needed all game. “Nothing’s been easy for us. We know we have it in us. We got pushed against the wall, but we never really cowered down and we were up for the fight.”
Cartersville had to muster plenty of fight following a spectacular pitching performance by North Hall’s Colton Duttweiler, the hard-luck losing pitcher in a well-fought game. Duttweiler no-hit the Canes through the first four innings as the Trojans took a 1-0 lead courtesy of Griffin Olson’s fourth-inning double that reached the right-field warning track.
It appeared to be all North Hall would need for much of the game, but in the fifth Hayes Linn legged out an infield single before Beau Benefield’s sacrifice bunt moved him over.
Following a walk issued to starter Garrett Rutledge, the Trojans intentionally walked Connor Justus to load the bases for Jamieson.
In a role he would reprise a couple of innings later, Jamieson lifted a Duttweiler pitch to right for a sacrifice fly that allowed Linn to score the game-tying run.
With his team mounting a potential comeback, Rutledge began to heat up around the fifth inning. The junior righty retired six straight batters before Olson reached for North Hall on an error to lead off the top of the seventh.
However, Rutledge fielded a sacrifice bunt, getting the lead runner out at second, and after surrendering a single up the middle, he recorded a strikeout and popout to get Cartersville — playing as the home team in the nightcap — to its final three outs.
The bottom of the seventh, like the top half of the inning, began with an error that the Canes exploited. Rutledge laid down a sac bunt to get Benefield in scoring position, and Justus collected a second intentional walk to place runners on the corners for Jamieson, who delivered Cartersville’s second RBI of the night.
Rutledge threw a complete-game, two-hitter, striking out a batter an inning while allowing just one walk.
Helping the game-winning pitcher were Jamieson, 1 for 3 (walk, two RBIs), and Linn, 1 for 2 (walk), who had the Canes’ lone hits on the evening.
Olson, 1 for 3 (double, RBI), and Adam Kelley, 1 for 3, combined for both of the Trojans’ hits. Duttweiler went seven innings on the mound for North Hall, giving up one earned run on two hits and six walks, with five strikeouts.
Afterward, the Canes’ Justus, a four-year starter and Georgia Tech-bound shortstop, said that he could not thank his teammates enough.
“… This has to be [one] of the top two moments of my life,” said Justus. “What a great experience for all of us. We’ve been working four years at it. We’ve come up short and just to have this moment is unbelievable.”
Canes coach Stuart Chester summed his emotions as explainable.
“I have a lot of emotion because this was a special group of guys. And, we got two people in Cartersville that’s battling a disease and that’s Sissy Baker and Jeff Cave, …” Chester revealed. “I want this dedicated to her and Jeff Cave.”
Baker and Cave, as well as the rest of the Purple Hurricane nation, will smile broadly upon hearing the news of Cartersville’s coronation as the 2013 Class AAA state champions.
As for his players, the longtime Canes coach knows what his players will feel like when they wake up, if that will even be necessary.
“I don’t know that they’ll go to sleep,” Chester grinned. “They can poke that chest out and hold that head up because they’ve accomplished a lot. Thirty wins, seven losses, we’ve had a great season …”
Game 1: Canes 4, North Hall 2
While host North Hall stranded runner after runner on base, the Canes hit 5 for 11 with runners in scoring position, including a robust 4 for 6 in the second inning, to seize control of the championship series with a 4-2 victory in the first part of a day-night doubleheader.
Drew Lawson led off the top of the second with a double, which began a string of doubles for the Canes as Ty Fowler drilled a shot down the left-field line to score pinch runner Mark Quattlebaum. Benefield wedged an RBI double underneath the left-field wall, replacing Fowler on second as Cartersville took a two-run lead.
Following a bloop single by designated hitter Brandon Wells, leadoff hitter Connor Justus drove a hit to center field with runners on the corners, scoring Benefield, to give the Canes a 3-0 lead.
Though the Trojans had runners on base in each inning, they managed just a pair of runs due to a paltry 1 for 13 effort with runners in scoring position.
North Hall, which left a pair of runners on base in the first three innings, lit up the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of one-out hits from McCoy Savage (double) and pitcher Preston Graham, the latter hit a single that placed runners on first and third. Andrew Smith’s sacrifice fly to right plated the Trojans’ first run.
Cartersville extended its lead back to three in the fifth as Lawson’s RBI single, which dropped into shallow right, brought around Tripp Jamieson, who led off with a single to right.
The home half of the fifth inning also saw the leadoff hitter reach base as Olson deposited a Hayes Linn offering to the left-field wall.
After Duttweiler’s sac fly to right advanced Olson, Kelley hit a grounder to second base to plate North Hall’s second run.
With the Canes nursing a two-run lead, the Trojans benefitted from an error to start the sixth and Savage’s sac bunt gave North Hall a runner in scoring position. Two more base runners would give Stephen Murray company along the base path as Graham and Zach Mize sandwiched walks around a fielder’s choice to give the Trojans a bases-loaded situation with two outs.
Reliever Connor Justus induced a groundout, though, and Cartersville escaped danger. Justus overcame a leadoff single and walk in the seventh to end the game with a strikeout. He finished with one strikeout while allowing three walks and one hit.
Linn earned the win with a steely performance, giving up two earned runs while scattering seven hits, walking three and striking out five.
Graham took the loss, going seven innings with four earned runs, eight hits, seven strikeouts and two walks.
Hitters for North Hall were Mize, 1 for 3; Olson, 2 for 4 (double); Duttweiler, 3 for 4 (walk); and Savage, 1 for 2 (walk, double).
Offensive contributors for the Canes were Justus, 2 for 4 (RBI); Jamieson, 2 for 4; Austin Adams, 1 for 3; Lawson, 2 for 4 (double, RBI); Fowler, 1 for 3 (double, RBI); Benefield, 1 for 3 (double, RBI); and Wells, 1 for 3.