Saturday’s semifinal of the Perfect Game HS Showdown at LakePoint provided everything one could hope for from a big game with two good teams in a major high school baseball tournament.
There was a late-inning comeback, a large crowd, scouts filming high-major prospects, and plenty of drama and tension deep into extra innings.
However, it wasn’t until a few hours after the 7-4 loss to Providence that Cartersville coach Kyle Tucker could finally reflect on and appreciate the quality of the ballgame.
“Somebody grabbed me [later in the day] and said, ‘I know you wanted to win, but that was a really good game.’ I’ll be honest, that was the first time I thought about it,” Tucker said of the Providence game. “When you’re in the game, you’re thinking how can we score, who are you gonna pitch if this thing goes 15, 16 innings. And I did kind of notice one time, ... everybody matriculated over to our field and was watching. That was a pretty cool atmosphere.
“It was a heck of a baseball game.”
The Canes would go on to lose the third-place game to Parkview later in the day, 3-1, finishing the weekend 2-2 and in fourth place among a talented tournament field that included five nationally ranked teams.
“I’m proud of them, man. We talked about Cartersville had never started 2-0 in this tournament. We did it, and they were excited,” Tucker said of making the semifinals. “I hate it that we couldn’t get it done in that game against Providence, but I’m happy with our guys for competing.
“When you stand back and look at it as a whole, I feel good about it.”
The semifinal game was the best game of the tournament, regardless of the team. Trailing 4-2 and down to its last strike in the bottom of the seventh, Cartersville had senior Georgia Tech commit Jake Gooch at the plate. After fouling off a sharp breaking ball to stay alive, Gooch delivered a hard-hit single up the middle to score two runs and send the game into extras.
As if the last-chance comeback wasn’t intense enough, the extra frames would only add to the drama. There were fans heckling players, stare downs after outs, a player posturing to fans, a player walking through the other team’s huddle, a heated argument between a coach and umpire, and even a pronounced bat flip after a walk.
As the game went deeper into extra innings, more and more spectators gathered around LakePoint Field 15.
Between the foul lines, Cartersville had multiple promising chances to win the game in walk-off fashion. After Gooch’s game-tying single, the Canes left the bases loaded in the seventh. They then put runners in scoring position in each of the next four innings, including twice with less than two outs, but could not push across the winning run.
In the 10th, the potential winning run was thrown out at home.
“We had a lot of opportunities with people on base and just couldn’t get a hit,” Tucker said. “There will be another opportunity like that later in the year and we’ll come through and win a big game like that.”
The lack of timely hitting in extra innings would come back to haunt Cartersville when Providence, which was undefeated on the season heading into the day, put together a two-out rally in the 11th. The Stallions scored three runs after an error on a dropped fly ball extended Providence’s turn at the plate.
Cartersville got the leadoff hitter on base in the bottom of the 11th, but once again stranded him in scoring position to end the game.
Two costly errors resulted in Cartersville allowing four unearned runs in the game, one in the top of the seventh and three in the fateful 11th.
“We’re making some [errors] in some big spots,” Tucker said. “There’s just that one or two a game. .... I think you just have to [fix] that at practice. That comes from the way you practice and it carries over into the game.”
Gooch wound up taking the loss despite allowing no earned runs in his five innings out of the bullpen.
He also went 2-for-5 at the plate with a double; Anthony Seigler went 3-for-6 in the game with two runs scored; and Devin Warner and Jordan Wilkie each had two hits and an RBI apiece.
Like the game against Providence, the second game of the day against Parkview saw Cartersville outhit its opponent, but fail to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Parkview scored three runs on just two hits. The Panthers’ first run broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth without registering a hit.
Cartersville came back with Seigler’s two-out RBI triple to tie the game in the top of the fifth, but Parkview responded with two in the bottom of the frame.
Ian Inaba, who scored the tying run after reaching on a double in the seventh inning against Providence, had two hits against Parkview. Gooch added a double.
The Canes used four pitchers against Parkview, and eight total in the four-game tournament. Illustrating the team’s pitching depth, Cartersville surrendered just seven earned runs in 31 innings, which comes out to a 1.58 ERA against some talented lineups.
Blessed Trinity would go on to beat Providence in the final, a reversal of the outcome of last year’s championship game between the same two teams.
Blessed Trinity will remain the No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A, and Cartersville entered the week ranked second.
Parkview came into the season ranked No. 2 in the country by Perfect Game.
Now at the midway point of the season, Cartersville sits at 10-5 as the Canes prepare to open up region play at Sandy Creek on Thursday.