As the Cartersville baseball team entered the all-important region portion of its schedule, the Canes had already established themselves as one of the top contenders in Class 4A.
Cartersville’s only three losses have come to nationally and state-ranked teams, while their 11 non-region wins have mostly come against strong competition.
However, for the first three innings of its Region 5-AAAA opener at LaGrange Monday, it appeared the Canes had perhaps not carried over the momentum offensively from their stellar non-region play and were locked in a scoreless tie with the Grangers.
And then came the fourth inning.
Cartersville exploded for 11 runs in the last three innings of its game Monday to pummel LaGrange by a final score of 11-0 in a run-rule shortened six innings.
While the bats took three innings to get warmed up, Cohen Wilbanks was strong all game. He pitched five innings, allowing no runs, four hits, one walk, and struck out six. Hayden Davidson came on to pitch the final frame and allowed just a walk.
The strong pitching was needed through three, with Cartersville just earning one baserunner through its first trip around the batting order. In the fourth, though, the Canes would break through.
Preston Welchel had one of his three hits in the game with one out in the fourth before an error and a walk loaded the bases. An infield fly kept the bases loaded with two outs, but Ian Inaba came through with a clutch single with a full count to score Welchel. J.P. Martin was the next batter and he was hit by a pitch to score a second run, and Kolby Adams singled to score a third run.
The big fourth inning seemed to jumpstart the bats, as Welchel’s RBI double in the fifth made the score 4-0. The double scored Josh Davis, who doubled to lead off the frame. Jordan Wilkie singled after that and Brant Smith hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-0 after 4 1/2 innings.
With the game in hand, Wilbanks was relieved on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, but not before he hit a two-run double with two outs in the top of the sixth. Welchel was then hit by a pitch, and Wilkie singled to make the score 8-0. Smith and Mason Barnett followed with consecutive walks to bring home another run, and Inaba came through again with a double to left field to score the final two runs of the game to cap a six-run inning.
Welchel continued his torrid start to the season, going 3-for-3 Monday with three runs scored; Inaba went 2-for-3 with three RBIs; Wilkie went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI; and Adams went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI to lead the Canes.
Cartersville is now 12-3 overall and will look to sweep the two-game region series with LaGrange on Wednesday at Richard Bell Field.