However, the stage proved not to be too big for Cartersville left fielder Lane Wilson and shortstop Clifton Dempsey as each delivered clutch two-out hits to defeat Pepperell Saturday night by a score of 4-3 in eight innings at the home of the Rome Braves.
“It’s huge, not only to play at this stadium, but to have a game where you can get at bats and throw the ball,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “You get a lot more out of a game like this than winning by 10 or getting beat by 10.”
Cartersville outhit Pepperell 9-2, but still needed some late-inning heroics to tie the game and win it in extra innings.
Wilson was responsible for the clutch hit of the night when he stepped up to the plate with a runner on second base and two outs in the seventh inning.
He quickly fell behind in the count, 0-2.
With Pepperell one strike away from winning the game, Wilson was able to make contact and send the ball into center field where it dropped in front of the outfielder to tie the game at 3-all. It was his second RBI single of the game.
Despite the big ballpark and critical junction, Wilson said, he was comfortable at the plate and very familiar with the opponent.
“I used to play there when I was little. I moved to Cartersville when I was in third grade,” Wilson said of Pepperell. “I was playing a team I used to play for back in the day so I felt comfortable. I knew the kid who was pitching and I had confidence I’d be alright.”
Even after Wilson’s hit, Cartersville needed another clutch two-out hit to win the game in the eighth. Dempsey would step up for the Canes and deliver, scoring Destin Herron from third base for the eventual game winner.
The timely hitting was especially encouraging to Chester because his team had stranded 22 runners the previous two games against region opponents.
“If you keep getting hits and keep getting guys on base, eventually you’re going to get them across,” Chester said. “We just have to keep hanging where we’re at and keep trying to punch them through.”
Through 5 1/2 innings, it did not appear Cartersville would need to punch any more runners through. The Canes held a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, thanks in large part to the pitching erformance of Hunter Osborn. Osborn allowed only one walk through his four innings of work. At one point between the second and fourth inning, Osborn struck out seven out of eight batters he faced.
“The fastball was working pretty well,” Osborn said. “The umpire was giving me the corners so we just kept living on the corners.”
“[Osborn] was on, and when he’s on, he’s hard to beat,” Chester said. “The last three or four outings, he’s been great.”
Due to the circumstance of playing at State Mutual Stadium, Chester tried to work some players into the game. As a result, Osborn exited after four innings.
“We wanted to get some other guys some work and get everybody in the game. We have region next week, so you wouldn’t want to burn anybody today,” Chester said. “We wanted everybody to play, but with it being like it is where it’s not free substitution like at Turner Field, it makes it hard. It’s hard because you have to burn guys. You have to be smart with your lineup card.”
Chester would go on to use four pitchers in the next three innings after Osborn. Pepperell was finally able to break through for a hit in the fifth inning and in the sixth inning with a leadoff single by Zach O’Neal. After a sacrifice bunt and walk, an error caused O’Neal to score to cut Cartersville’s lead to one and put runners on the corners with one out.
Pepperell also was able to take advantage of a defensive miscue during the next at bat when catcher Elliott Berrey threw to first base to try and retire the runner, Seth Addison, who strayed too far off the bag at first. The subsequent rundown allowed Zach Williams to score from third as Pepperell planned and tied the game at 2.
The Dragons would score a third run in the inning when, after a wild pitch moved Addison to third base, he tagged up on a flyout to right field and scored the go-ahead run.
“You would think a 4-3 ballgame, where one team had nine hits and the other had two hits, it wouldn’t look like that,” Chester said. “We can’t give teams extra outs.”
As frustrating as the bottom of the sixth may have been for the Cartersville coaches, players and fans, it set up the exciting finish.
“It was awesome,” Osborn said. “Our team played well and got hits when we needed to.”
Mark Quattlebaum was one of the Canes with a big hit as his third-inning double down the left field line scored Cartersville’s first run. Elliott Anderson singled to lead off the inning and scored on the play. Berrey sacrificed Anderson over to second, which contributed to a successful inning for Cartersville’s No. seven, eight and nine batters in the lineup.
Quattlebaum also executed an important and successful sacrifice bunt attempt in the seventh inning to move Anderson into scoring position for Wilson.
Cartersville now moves to 5-7 on the season and has three of the top teams in Region 5-AAA on the schedule for the week ahead, starting with the game at Adairsville on Tuesday.