The Purple Hurricanes not only shared in the experience of playing at a big league stadium, but were able to defeat Class AAAAAA playoff-bound West Forsyth, 4-3, in a tuneup for the state playoffs, beginning Friday.
“You can’t beat it because that experience is once in a lifetime. You hear that all the time and I think it’s overused. But it really is once in a lifetime because how many high school baseball players are going to go to the major leagues and play in a stadium like that?” Cartersville assistant coach Kyle Tucker said. “[Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester] reminds the guys of that, ‘It’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t get. Enjoy it. Have fun.’ We’re going to play everybody and we want to win. We’re building momentum for Friday. We don’t want to go into that game having not won at Turner Field.”
Cartersville was not intimidated by the big ballpark as the Canes scored two runs in the top of the first inning. Clifton Dempsey walked to lead off the game. Cameron Neal and Brent Arnold then each singled to load the bases.
Sophomore Elliott Anderson followed with an RBI single to drive in Dempsey and give the Canes a 1-0 lead. Garrett Rutledge drove in the second run on an RBI groundout.
West Forsyth scored a run in each the first, second and fourth innings to take the lead.
However, the Canes would pull the game out in the top of the seventh inning to eventually win the game.
Riley Richards left off the seventh with a double.
“It was really off the left field wall. Obviously, there, he crushed that ball,” Tucker said.
Rutledge and David Darnell then singled to load the bases.
“The reason we didn’t score is because Garrett’s was like a bloop in the triangle between the third baseman, the left fielder and the shortstop. It was so high, they couldn’t get to it,” Tucker said of why Richards did not advance to third on one of the singles. “Riley couldn’t go because he had to make sure they couldn’t get to it.”
Not scoring from second base after two singles could have hurt the Canes and prevented them from tying the game. However, Lane Wilson walked to tie the game before Elliott Berrey grounded out to score the go-ahead run.
Rutledge and Berrey came through again in the bottom of the inning, this time on defense.
“Garrett Rutledge pitched the bottom of the seventh and a guy got on. They did a hit-and-run and the hitter missed the pitch. Elliott Berrey threw the runner out at second, so Elliott had a big seventh inning,” Tucker said. “He had the game winning RBI and he threw a guy out trying to steal. And Garrett struck the last guy out.”
Coaches are permitted to substitute freely at Turner Field in an effort to play as many players as possible. Cartersville took advantage and used all 23 players the team brought along and 20 different Canes recorded a plate appearance in the game, while seven pitchers got to throw an inning.
The game was originally scheduled earlier in the season, but was rained out. Tucker believes the rainout may have helped his team prepare to take on White County in the first round of the playoffs.
“The schedule worked out perfect that we were able to play today. We didn’t play since last Tuesday, and not playing until this Friday, it’s a huge layoff between the regular season and the playoffs. So this was perfect, halfway in between, being able to play [Monday],” Tucker said. “We would have scrimmaged today, probably against each other, but there’s no way to simulate a game. West Forsyth had five or six left-handed pitchers. They just kept rolling them out there and they wouldn’t be going to the playoffs if they didn’t have really good pitching.”