However, it was Cartersville pitcher Lane Wilson who was the best pitcher Friday night at Richard Bell Field.
Wilson’s performance, paired with some timely hitting by David Darnell, helped lead Cartersville to a walk-off victory in game one and a sweep of White County in the first round of the state playoffs.
“Let me tell you, [White County] is a good baseball team,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “I had a feeling yesterday that we were fixing to break out because we worked so hard preparing for Spencer Adams. He’s the real deal.”
Cartersville 3, White County 2
In the first game, Adams was outpitched by Wilson, who threw six innings, allowed two unearned runs and struck out seven. All of the strikeouts were swing and misses on curveballs.
Wilson was pitching because Hunter Osborn, Cartersville’s ace, is out with a strained muscle in his forearm, but should return for the team’s second-round series.
Wilson allowed just four hits, while Adams allowed five and struck out five.
“That’s huge for Lane not to have started many games,” Chester said of Wilson’s performance. “That’s what he needs to do for him to be effective, is he has to throw his breaking pitches and it helps his fastball. He just locates and competes, and that’s all you can ask.”
White County drew first blood and was able to get on the board when a Cartersville error kept the top of the second alive. Chris Jackson then hit a two-out double to give White County the lead.
Cartersville would answer back in the bottom of the third. Mark Quattlebaum walked and then advanced to second on a Brent Arnold single. Later in the inning, with two outs and a runner on second, Cameron Neal got behind on the count, 1-2, to Adams. Neal took a ball and fouled off another pitch before lining an RBI single in front of the White County center fielder to score Quattlebaum from second base.
The hit was one of three two-out singles with runners in scoring position for Cartersville in the game.
“We worked on that for three days,” Chester said of his team’s production with runners in scoring position. “We worked on moving runners and scoring them. Everything was two strikes, two outs and it just takes a little bit of production to get something good going.”
In the fourth inning, Clifton Dempsey was the next Cane to get a two-out RBI single when he lined a ball over the first baseman’s head. The hit scored Darnell from second base after he doubled earlier in the inning.
“We just made sure we got our foot down. Anytime you got guys throwing as hard as [Adams] does, you have to do that. We made sure we spread out a little bit and used our hands a little more than our body and rotation,” Chester said of how his team was able to score two runs off of Adams. “To battle like we did, they went up a run, we went up a run. Usually in their region, a one run lead is all they need. Then to comeback and tie it up, we did a good job at the plate and not trying to do too much with it.”
White County would tie the game up in the sixth inning when an error allowed Joel Pritchett to reach base. Two batters later, with two outs, Parker Applewhite singled to score Pritchett.
After six strong innings from Wilson, Micah Smith entered the game for Cartersville and did not allow a run in the seventh inning, bringing the game to extra innings.
In the eighth inning, Smith pitched another scoreless inning, setting the stage for Darnell’s heroics.
Neal led off the eighth with a base hit before Riley Richards laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt to move Richards to second base. Garrett Rutledge was then intentionally walked. A fielder’s choice groundout put runners on first and third with two outs for Darnell, who fell behind 0-2 in the count.
Darnell took a ball before lining the next pitch to center field, where it short-hopped into the outfielder’s glove for a base hit to score pinch runner Trent Frazier from third base and give Cartersville the walk-off win.
Darnell was filling in for injured regular first baseman Destin Herron, who is out with a strained back muscle but should return for round two.
“We always have, at some point in time in the playoffs, we have somebody who steps up,” Chester said. “David hadn’t started all year long. He has done a great job.”
Chester was not expecting to steal the first game from White County with Adams on the mound.
The win was even more impressive because Herron and Osborn, two of the team’s top four pitchers, were out with injuries.
“Our goal with [Wilson] was to hang in there and take it enough innings to get Adams a high pitch count, so he couldn’t come back the third game and for Lane to get us as many innings as he could,” Chester said. “If it got into a situation where it was close, we were going to get Micah to pitch and Garrett to close it, but Lane did a great job.”
Cartersville 14, White County 2
Cartersville rode its momentum into the second game and put up eight runs in the top of the first inning on its way to a 14-2 win in five innings.
The win advanced the Canes to the second round, a feat they have accomplished in all 17 years Chester has been the head coach.
“The second kid [Pritchett] is a good pitcher, but nothing like Spencer,” Chester said. “I guess the ball looked bigger to us after looking like a BB in the first game.”
The first six hitters recorded hits for Cartersville to begin the game. Dempsey led off with a single, Arnold then hit one and Elliott Anderson followed with a base hit to load the bases.
Neal was the next batter and hit a single of his own between the shortstop and third baseman to score Cartersville’s first run. Riley Richards then poked one in the third-base hole to score the second run.
Rutledge drove in two more with his double to the left-center field gap and Darnell added another run with a groundout.
Quattlebaum kept the inning alive two batters later with a walk, which led to a two-run single by Dempsey. Quattlebaum, who is headed to UNC-Charlotte on a football scholarship as a wide receiver and defensive back, scored all the way from first on Dempsey’s hit.
Arnold was the next batter and hit a triple in the left-center field gap to score the eighth and final run of the first inning.
“Our guys were mentally prepared for [White County’s second pitcher] because I told them, ‘Once you get away from Adams, you have to hunker down for what’s coming next,’ and they did,” Chester said. “What we did last week helped our swing so much.”
Cartersville would score three more in the second inning when Richards singled and Rutledge walked to put two runners on for Darnell. Darnell doubled to drive in Richards and move Rutledge to third. Rutledge would score soon after on an infield single by Quattlebaum. Another run would score later in the inning on a White County error.
White County was able to get two runs of their own in the bottom of the second inning, but that would be it for the game as Rutledge pitched five innings and struck out four.
“Garrett didn’t have his stuff tonight, but he competed and battled, and about the third or fourth inning, he finally settled in and got it going,” Chester said of Rutledge’s performance on the mound.
Rutledge was aided by Quattlebaum’s defense in left field. Quattlebaum made two run-saving catches in the bottom of the first, one in which he was turned around twice before diving to his right to make the play, and another where he ran back to the wall and made a leaping catch on a ball over his head.
Quattlebaum went 3-for-3 in the second game with a walk.
The Canes would score one more run in the fourth and another two in the fifth to win on the 10-run rule.
Brent Arnold went 4-for-8 in the series with a walk, triple and two RBIs. Dempsey went 3-for-8 with three RBIs and two runs scored from the leadoff spot.
Neal went 3-for-7, was hit by a pitch, had two RBIs and scored a run; Richards went 2-for-6 with two walks and scored three runs; Rutledge went 2-for-6, with a double, three walks and two RBIs.
Last, but certainly not least, Darnell went 3-for-8 with two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored.
Cartersville will return to action Wednesday for the second round. The opponent and start time have yet to be determined.