So when Cartersville scored four runs in the first inning Friday against Adairsville, the outcome was no longer in doubt as the Canes cruised to a 4-0 victory at Richard Bell Field.
“They have good pitching,” Adairsville head coach Billy Roper said of Cartersville. “We knew what [Cartersville] had. They’re going to throw their best.
“You look at the scoreboard and see you only gave up six hits, you think you win the ballgame. Then you look and see you only got three.”
The Cartersville offense gave the pitching staff more than enough run support in the first inning. Clifton Dempsey and Cameron Neal led off the game with back-to-back line drive singles. Destin Herron then walked two batters later. Riley Richards followed suit with a 10-pitch at bat with the bases loaded to bring home Dempsey.
With two outs in the inning, Brent Arnold was hit by a pitch to score another run. David Darnell then stepped to the plate, fell behind in the count, 0-2, and was fooled two pitches later by a breaking ball. He was still able to reach down and line a single into center field to bring home Herron and Richards from third and second base, respectively.
“[Darnell] did a good job keeping his hands back,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “He was fooled on the pitch and he put it in play. He did a good job with it.”
Darnell’s hit made the score 4-0 by the end of the first.
That would be all the runs Cartersville scored, however, as Adairsville pitcher Cody Melton shut the Canes out the rest of the way.
“We had other scoring opportunities and we just floundered them away,” Chester said.
Melton pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed four hits and struck out five in relief.
“[Melton] hadn’t been as strong in the last couple of outings, but he came in, got us out of trouble and kept us out of trouble. He gave us a chance to win the ballgame. If we’re going to be successful the rest of the year and make a push for the playoffs, he is going to have to throw like he did today for us,” Roper said. “Cody is one that pitches backwards. He is able to establish his curveball and slider, and then he sneaks his fastball in. He was able to keep [Cartersville] off stride.”
For Cartersville, Garrett Rutledge got the start and pitched five innings, allowed three hits, no walks and struck out four.
In his last five outings, Rutledge has pitched 16 innings and struck out 13 batters while allowing 11 hits, two walks and just one earned run.
“Fastballs and curveballs,” he said of what worked for him Friday. “I just threw strikes and trusted my defense. That seemed to work. I started off pretty bad [this season], but it’s been a lot better since the beginning of the year.”
Micah Smith and Hunter Osborn continued their strong seasons and combined to work the final two innings against Adairsville. Neither allowed a hit or a walk. Each pitched an inning and Smith struck out one Tiger while Osborn struck out the last two batters to end the game.
“They did a good job,” Chester said of the three pitchers he used in the game. “They throw strikes, they locate, they have control of two or three pitches and it was just good defense behind them. It’s easier to pitch with a four-run lead but they did a god job.”
Adairsville’s offense did put runners on second base in the third and sixth innings. However, that would be as far as they would get.
Melton, in addition to his strong pitching performance, delivered a single in the only at bat he had in the game.
“We got some good at bats toward the end, started hitting it to right field. They were just right at people,” Roper said. “I tell our players, ‘You just have to find a way.’ If one of those line drives we hit gets in the gap or something, it gives you life and you’re able to go. Even at our place, [in the two teams’ first meeting on March 25], we never could get the hit to get them on the ropes or give our kids a little life to get going.”
Adairsville dropped to 5-5 in Region 5-AAA as the Tigers battle North Murray for the fourth seed. They have Sonoraville on Tuesday and Ringgold on Thursday in their next scheduled region games.
Meanwhile, Cartersville is tied with Ringgold for first place in the region at 9-1 with Sonoraville just a game behind. Cartersville and Ringgold face each other April 15 at Ringgold.
“I think we’ll come out on top,” Rutledge said. “If we just keep playing, we’ll win region and get in the playoffs.”