The Canes are the top seed out of Region 5-AAA and are ranked ninth in Class AAA in the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, but open the playoffs today at Richard Bell Field against one of the top high school pitchers in the country, White County’s Spencer Adams.
Committed to Georgia, Adams is a 6-5, 180-pound right-handed pitcher and is rated No. 21 in the Baseball America High School Top 100.
“Spencer tops out at 97, has a great slider, comes in there anywhere from 85-88. He’s a first-round [MLB draft] prospect,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “There’s no doubt the team is built around him. You throw a fastball 97 and a slider 88, you can do a lot around that. Of course, he’s the cornerstone of the whole program right now, but you can’t overlook them offensively or defensively, though, either.”
First pitch at Richard Bell will be at 4 p.m. with a second game immediately following. If necessary, the third game will be played Saturday.
White County went 17-9 during the regular season and 12-9 playing in the competitive Region 7. North Hall, West Hall and Buford all boast some of the best teams in Class AAA and White County went 1-8 against those three opponents. However, the Warriors went 16-1 against the other teams on their schedule.
“They’re an all-around good team. They have a good pitching staff, they put it in play and they don’t strike out. You have a kid throwing at 97, you don’t have to score a lot of runs,” Chester said of White County. “They’re a sound ballclub. They’re good defensively. It was nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth between two and four in their region, anyway. They come from a very strong region, so they’re a good ballclub with a great pitching staff.
“This is probably the toughest first-round matchup we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Cartersville also has played a tough schedule and won two games against No. 10-ranked Ringgold. The Canes lost by a score of 3-1 to Parkview, which is ranked 18th in the country by Baseball America, and played four Class AAAAAA opponents as well as two of the top-seven teams in Class AAAA during their non-region schedule.
Over the course of the season, Cartersville’s pitching staff has made the team successful, and as a result, not many runs are to be expected over the course of the three-game series.
White County has held teams to 3.4 runs per game while the Canes have held opponents to an average of 2.2 runs per game.
Senior pitcher Hunter Osborn has been the ace for Cartersville this season and Chester said he will get the ball in game one, but the rest of the rotation is still to be decided.
“To be absolutely honest with you, we haven’t decided yet,” Chester said of who will pitch after Osborn. “We have about three or four guys that are about the same, so we really don’t know what rotation we will have. We might not determine that until [today].”
Garrett Rutledge will certainly pitch a game for Cartersville. In his last eight outings, the senior has pitched 24 2/3 innings, allowed just two earned runs on 17 hits and six walks to go along with 22 strikeouts.
Junior left-handed pitcher Micah Smith also has been relied upon heavily for Cartersville in important games and could see work in multiple games out of the bullpen or as a starter.
Osborn, Rutledge and Smith were all relied upon heavily in region play, and the Canes will likely look to sophomore left-hander Elliott Anderson to give the team innings in between.
Despite the strong pitching staff, Cartersville will have to manufacture runs to win two games in the series as that had been the issue in the team’s two region losses to Sonoraville, both 3-1 scores.
Dealing with a pitcher of Adams’ quality does not make the task any easier.
“[Adams] will go the first game. Unless he works a high pitch count or we’re fortunate enough to get to him, he’ll go the entire game, I’m sure. I don’t know about bringing him back game two or three. I don’t think they would bring him back game two, game three would be questionable. I know I wouldn’t when you got a kid who has a future like he has,” Chester said of how many innings he expects Adams to throw. “The key for us is to work him deep in the count, put the ball in play and, hopefully, the ball will bounce our way. Of course, manufacturing runs against someone like that, at some point in time, you’ll need to play smallball or try to work him as deep in the count as possible.”
White County may have the advantage with its game-one starter, but all three games will be played at the friendly confines of Richard Bell Field.
“Richard Bell Field has traditionally been good to us. The home crowd, just the atmosphere, it’s going to be a great place and an intimidating place to play,” Chester said. “It’s a good X-factor for us, no doubt. Of course, a kid throwing 97, he can X that out, as well.”