The 2016 Bartow County baseball season featured plenty of highlights, big plays and big wins.
However, it also featured some narrow losses in close games, leaving teams wondering what could have been.
For the four county schools, out of 61 combined losses this season, 26 were by one or two runs.
Adairsville managed to secure the No. 3 seed in Region 6-AAA, but was knocked out in the first round after losing a late lead to Dawson County in Game 2 of the Class 3A state playoff series. Dawson County scored six runs in the fifth inning and went on to win by a score of 14-12 to end the Tigers’ season.
Still, Adairsville made ground this year and reached the state playoffs by winning four of its last five games to separate themselves in an evenly-matched region, featuring six teams with records over .500.
The Tigers finished 15-11 overall and 11-5 in region play and had some big wins against Calhoun, Sonoraville and two wins over Cass.
Cartersville also had a narrow loss in the playoffs that would eventually end the season. The Canes had two runners in scoring position at Buford in Game 1 of the Class 4A quarterfinals with one out and Cartersville trailing by one run. The Canes could not knock that one run in, though, and would go on to lose Game 2 to finish the season 19-13.
The Canes had similar one-run losses in region play, losing three games by one run in which they had late leads and errors in the final inning cost them the game.
Despite not winning the region for just the fifth time in the last 22 years, Cartersville still managed to reach the state quarterfinals for the 19th time in the last 21 years.
The Canes swept through their first two state playoff series convincingly, and had several impressive wins against top competition during the regular season, including against IMG Academy at LakePoint.
Meanwhile, Cass got off to a solid start to the season, winning three of its first five games and taking two out of three against reigning region champ Creekview. However, Cass would go on to drop 18 of its next 21 games to finish with a record of 6-20 overall and 4-14 in Region 7-AAAAA.
Cass hit just .216 on the season and averaged just 2.6 runs per game.
Woodland, on the other hand, did not struggle with the bats this season as the Wildcats had six players who hit between .298 and .400. However, Woodland too was plagued by falling on the short side of one-run games. The Wildcats went on a nine-game losing streak at one point in the season. Their average margin of defeat during that stretch was just 1.7 runs and the Wildcats did not lose by more than three runs in any of those nine games, while four of those losses came by exactly one run.
The narrow losses hurt Woodland in the region standings as the team finished last in the subregion alongside Cass with a 4-14 region record. The ’Cats did sweep the Colonels, though, in a region and country three-game rivalry series.
Excel Christian Academy also took its lumps this year, going 2-19 and 0-18 in Region 6-A. However, the Eagles were happy to be back playing varsity baseball after a three-year absence from playing a region schedule. Excel had seven freshmen out of a 14-man roster, and the program looks for some of that young talent to manifest itself in wins in the coming years.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Elliott Anderson — Cartersville
After he hit .404 and had a 2.44 ERA as a junior, and signed to Auburn in the fall, much was expected of Anderson to once again lead the Canes deep into the playoffs. Anderson delivered with another outstanding season as he hit .409 with 13 doubles, 17 RBIs, and held a 2.97 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings on the mound.
Anderson moved around in the top three spots in the batting order for Cartersville, but was effective as a table-setter. He was walked 20 times and hit by 16 pitches to give him an impressive .576 on-base percentage. His propensity to get on base earned him 37 runs scored, and there were just two games out of 32 all season where he failed to reach base at least once. Most impressive, he struck out just 10 times in 136 plate appearances.
He was especially productive at the plate when it mattered most, going 12-for-21 in the playoffs with six extra-base hits and 11 runs scored. He went 5-for-7 in the state quarterfinal series against Buford and ended the season on a nine-game hit streak with nine extra-base hits in that span.
“It just seemed like the harder they threw it, the better the pitcher, the better that he was,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said of Anderson at the plate. “Up at Buford, We faced a kid that was going to Georgia, and one going to Georgia Tech and he handled them quite well, and same thing with the guy from Heritage. So, I think, the better the pitching, the better he got.”
On the mound, Anderson pitched each playoff series opener. His four starts in nonregion play came against Lambert, Parkview, Gulliver Prep and Collins Hill. He only started four games in region play, all against the other two best teams in the region, Heritage and Pickens. Despite the quality competition, Anderson allowed just a .233 batting average against and struck out more than a quarter of the batters he faced.
“He’s just a workhorse. If you’re going to beat Elliott, you better do it in the first two innings because he gets better as the game goes on,” Chester said of Anderson on the mound. “I think that speaks to heart, determination, and just the pure competitiveness that he’s got.”
A three-year starter, Region 7-AAAA and DTN Player of the Year in 2015, and member of the 2013 state championship team, Chester said Anderson had one of the better careers of anyone to put on the purple and gold.
“I think our schedule this year was tougher than any. To have the numbers he’s had against the quality of pitching he’s faced, I think that speaks for itself and puts him up there with the best,” Chester said. “He had an impact career, not just in baseball, but on the coaches, the players and the community.”
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Sam Seaman — Adairsville
Coming down the stretch of region play with Adairsville in the middle of the playoff race, the Tigers gave the ball to Seaman in four important starts against playoff contending teams. He won each of those games, going the distance in three and pitching at least six innings in all four. He allowed just five earned runs in those four starts and struck out 36 to help Adairsville qualify for the state playoffs.
He finished the season with a 6-0 record and a save. In addition, he held a 2.44 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.
“Coming down the wire, every time we gave him the ball in region, he would win it for us. That’s big in our region because everybody was so close,” Adairsville head coach Billy Roper said of Seaman on the mound. “We knew he would probably be one our pitchers that we had to rely on. But not at any time do you really see him doing that well. Not that you don’t think he has the stuff, but with aluminum bats in high school ball, he exceeded all expectations. He went 6-0, and even the games he had no decisions in, he threw well enough to keep us in the game so we had chances to win ballgames.
“He had a lot of strikeouts. He throws fairly hard, but nothing overpowering. He complements his fastball with his off-speed stuff. He’s able to throw three or four pitches for strikes. When you find someone who can do that, they’re special.”
The junior was just as impressive at the plate. While playing mostly third base and batting in the No. 3 hole, Seaman hit for a county-leading .482 batting average, a .600 on-base percentage and a .696 slugging percentage. He reached base in every game he played in and hit nine doubles with a home run and contributed 20 runs scored and 15 RBIs in 56 at bats.
Just like his performance on the mound, Seaman was especially productive down the stretch. He had a hit in each game during the second cycle of region play and went 13-for-20 during those eight games with five multi-hit games. He also went 2-for-2 with a walk in Adairsville’s playoff series with Dawson County.
“You don’t ever look at a kid and think he’s going to hit .482 as a junior,” Roper said of Seaman’s season. “That’s just a testament to his hard work.”
Bailey Campbell — Cass
Campbell was Cass’ top returning hitter, and as a result, did not see many pitches to hit in his junior season. He still managed to put up solid numbers, batting .290 with five doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in 69 at bats. Most impressive was his .505 on-base percentage as he was moved up to the leadoff spot in the batting order due to his consistency getting on base. Campbell failed to reach base in just one game all season, partially due to getting hit by 12 pitches and taking 18 walks. He played catcher and first base for the Colonels.
“Bailey has a great eye. He has great plate discipline. But people knew that Bailey could hit a little bit, so a lot of people pitched around him,” Cass head coach Adam Williams said. “His average wasn’t what we wanted, but he didn’t get a lot of pitches to hit.”
Lane Griffith — Adairsville
The West Georgia signee had another stellar season behind the plate for the Tigers. He hit .367 with a .553 on-base percentage to go along with four doubles, 19 runs scored and 28 RBIs in 60 at bats. He often stepped up in the clutch and three of his four home runs were grand slams. One of those grand slams was when Adairsville came back from a six-run deficit in the final inning against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe to give the Tigers and important region win. Another grand slam came against Dawson County in the state playoffs to give the Tigers a two-run lead in the fourth inning.
Timely hits were common for Griffith as he batted .485 with runners in scoring position. He went 3-for-5 in the playoffs and had four multi-hit games during the eight-game second cycle of region play.
“Lane had a great year. ... Coming off the year he had last year, he was the kid that people pitched the toughest. So he made an adjustment with that and came back in the middle part of the season,” Roper said. “Lane’s just clutch and he’s always been clutch. ... All of his grand slams were in times when we needed them. That just tells you how clutch he was in moments like that.”
Of course, Griffith’s defense at catcher was just as important to the Tigers this season.
“Defensively, he just shuts down their running game,” Roper said. “He didn’t have a lot of steal attempts or a lot of assists because just no one ran. It doesn’t show in the book, but he had 28 RBIs, and, heck, he probably saved us 20 runs on just blocking the balls up and not letting runners score off third.”
Landon Howren — Adairsville
Howren was the starting second baseman for Adairsville as a senior and proved to be an important leadoff hitter for the Tigers, registering a .460 on-base percentage with a county-leading eight stolen bases. He hit .312 on the year with four doubles and a home run in 77 at bats, adding 20 runs scored and 14 RBIs. He ended the year on a six-game hit streak and had big games against Class 6A North Cobb, county rival Cass and region champ Ringgold.
“Landon, he did a phenomenal job. As far as leading off, you look at his on-base percentage and his runs, he really set the table all year so we could get to Sam, Morrow and Griffith. He did a god job of seeing pitches. He really bought into that philosophy,” Roper said. “He won our Mr. defense award, so that kind of tells you how consistent he was with his glove, also.”
Hayden Morrow — Adairsville
Morrow took over at shortstop this season for Adairsville as a senior and held down the infield defense while putting up big numbers at the plate. He hit .384 with nine doubles, 22 runs scored and 17 RBIs in 73 at bats. Against Calhoun and Ringgold during the second cycle of region play, he went a combined 4-for-5 with a walk in the two games to help build the momentum heading into the playoffs. His .511 on-base percentage especially stands out as he took eight walks in Adairsville’s last nine games.
“Hayden is one of those unsung heroes. He didn’t lead us in anything, but he was there in everything,” Roper said. “He was pretty much consistent for us all year long. Defensively, he took on the shortstop role for us and did a great job.”
Grant Robinson — Woodland
Robinson was Woodland’s ERA leader as a junior at 2.00, but arm trouble as a senior kept him off the mound for all but one scoreless inning.
However, Robinson still contributed greatly to the team, batting .388 with a .487 on-base percentage, nine doubles, a triple, 15 RBIs and 20 runs scored. While playing on the right side of the infield, he had 22 hits in Woodland’s last 13 games. Over the course of the second half of the season, he raised his batting average nearly .100 points. Against eventual subregion champ and Class 5A state quarterfinalist Dalton, Robinson went 4-for-4 with a double, a triple and three runs scored while facing the Catamounts’ ace, Cole Shelton.
“Grant is just an athlete,” Woodland head coach Corey Gochee said. “He showed us that he was pretty consistent all year at the plate, hitting in the middle of our lineup all year. He produced. It was just huge for Grant.”
Anthony Seigler — Cartersville
Had Seigler not missed 18 games this season, Cartersville may have won the region championship. Seigler began his sophomore year as Cartersville’s starting catcher, the position he is committed to Auburn to play. However, knee surgery cost him much of the season and he played second base when he returned.
The day before surgery, Seigler threw a complete-game for a win against Montverde Academy, allowing just one earned run just a few hours before he went under the knife. He finished the season with a 3.91 ERA, but had just a 3.03 ERA left-handed, which is the side he threw 30 of his 34 innings. He had 36 strikeouts in that span, despite his five starts this year coming against quality teams in Johns Creek, Montverde Academy, Redan, Thomson and Buford.
At the plate, Seigler batted in the top two spots in the order and hit .349 with a .453 on-base percentage, three doubles, three triples, 12 runs scored and 10 RBIs in 43 at bats. He hit .333 in the playoffs with three extra-base hits, a .400 on-base percentage, seven runs scored and seven RBIs in the six games.
Brandon Allen — Woodland
Allen was hitting .192 10 games into the season and just .222 after 15 games. From that point forward, the junior center fielder went 22-for-37 with eight multi-hit games in his last 11. He had 13 extra-base hits in the last nine games and finished the year hitting .390 with a .457 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a home run, 16 runs scored and 14 RBIs in 82 at bats.
“About week five or so, it started clicking for him offensively,” Gochee said of Allen’s season. “He tweaked a little bit of his mechanics. Once he did that, you can see the stats. From what he did from that point on, you want to talk about someone being on fire, he was really swinging the bat for us.”
Allen also tracked down balls in center field with his speed and was one of the county’s best defensive players.
“He can really go get the baseball in center field,” Gochee said. “The second half of the season, he was driving in runs for us and taking runs away from them defensively. He was such a vital part of our outfield all year. And when he started getting hot offensively, man, it was fun to watch.”
Carrington Evans — Cartersville
Evans has been one of the most productive players in the Cartersville lineup the last two seasons, batting in the top four spots in the order and driving in 39 runs as a junior and senior. He hit .337 this season with a .417 on-base percentage, six doubles, a triple and scored 25 runs. His home run and two RBIs against Heritage was the difference in Cartersville’s big 3-1 region win early in the season. He also hit .421 in the postseason, producing several big hits and scoring important runs in Cartersville’s run to the state quarterfinals.
In addition to his outstanding defense in left field, he also pitched 11 innings on the year and posted a 1.27 ERA with eight strikeouts.
“Carrington is consistent. Year in and year out, he comes in and he’s probably one of the players that hits the ball to any part of the field as well as we’ve had come through,” Chester said. “He can go to right-center, he’ll pull it, he can lay down a bunt. He’s got great speed. He reads the ball great in the outfield. His range is unbelievable. He’s probably one of the more consistent players we’ve had.”
Jacob Frye — Woodland
Frye reached base consistency throughout the season for the Wildcats. The junior outfielder and middle infielder recorded a hit in 20 of Woodland’s 26 games, and he finished the year hitting .354 with a .475 on-base percentage, five doubles, four triples, 21 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 82 at bats. He especially had a big series against Creekview in region play, going 5-for-9 with three doubles and two triples. He also had five hits during the Rome series and was hitting .419 midway through the year.
“He got into some streaks there where he was really difficult to get out,” Gochee said of Frye. “He was our sparkplug and table setter. Our offense would tend to go if he went. He works hard every day and that’s all you can ask.”
Parker Tidwell — Cartersville
The speedy senior always provided stellar defense in center field, but his bat came alive in the second and third rounds of the playoffs as he hit .471 in the postseason with a .571 on-base percentage, going 4-for-6 against Buford’s D-I pitchers. He hit .309 overall on the year with a .412 on-base percentage, five doubles, two triples, 25 runs scored and 25 RBIs 97 at bats. Defensively, he did not make an error all season while tracking down flyballs to center field and taking away extra-base hits.
“He’s probably one of the better defensive outfielders we’ve had here. He made some plays this year that I don’t know of anybody I can recall that would have made that play. Maybe Donavan Tate,” Chester said. “He reads the ball off the bat as quick as anybody, has great speed, and just to see him grow as a man and as a player for four years is a reward in itself.”
Just a freshman, Barnett’s performance on the mound portends to a bright future for the young right-hander. He held a 4-1 record and a 1.73 ERA in 28 1/3 innings to go along with 28 strikeouts while pitching several important games for the Canes. He got the start and the win against IMG, pitching a perfect game through four innings. He also threw multiple scoreless innings in relief against Mill Creek and Collins Hill. He saw some starts in region play and did not allow an earned run through his first five appearances against region competition. Barnett also threw a hitless 1 1/3 against Buford, allowing just one walk with two strikeouts. In addition to his pitching, he went 3-for-7 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs at the plate.
“He projects to be a great pitcher for us,” Chester said. “To step in there in some of the big games like he did as a freshman, there’s been very few that have done what he did. He will be an impact guy that can take over a game and win it for you.”
Spencer Dickey — Cartersville
Dickey not only became the regular third baseman for Cartersville, but he emerged as the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the Canes. He held a 0.98 ERA in 10 appearances, 14 1/3 innings, striking out 10 and allowing opponents to hit just .137 off of him. He got Cartersville out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth inning with a strikeout against Buford to give the Canes a chance in the seventh to take Game 1. The submarine pitcher also held on to the lead against Heritage in Cartersville’s win April 1, and did all he could to help the Canes beat Ridgeland with a scoreless 1 1/3 in one of their three region losses.
At the plate. Dickey hit .355 in region play with five doubles and hit a home run against Thomson in the second round of state.
“The thing about Spencer is he throws strikes,” Chester said. “He’s got three arm slots. He throws strikes and competes. He doesn’t get rattled very easy and he’s always looking to help any way he can.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Adairsville — Drake Arp, Orry Carter; Cartersville — Devin Warner, Zach Yancey; Cass — Austin Pruett; Excel — Joseph Cuomo; Woodland — Hunter Reaid, Rodolfo Romo.