Cartersville went 1-3 in the tournament spanning three days, but played tough competition and salvaged a 6-2 win Saturday against Class AAAAAA South Gwinnett.
“Coach [Stuart] Chester tells the players, ‘Our number one goal in this tournament is to get better as a team and to put you in situations that you just can’t simulate in practice. You’re going to play competition that’s as good as you’ll probably play all year,’” Cartersville assistant coach Kyle Tucker said Saturday. “We played North Florida Christian yesterday. They have three guys on the roster going to Florida State. Not one, three. Two have signed and one is a junior and is committed. They have two other guys who are going D-I. Everybody throws 90 mph. Everybody in the top four, five or six in their lineup are great hitters.
“I would say from Thursday night to Saturday night, coach Chester’s assessment would be that we did get better and that’s really the goal of this tournament.”
The Canes lost to LaGrange and North Florida Christian on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Looking to bounce back and leave the tournament with a win, Cartersville played Spanish Fort (Ala.) in its first game Saturday and fell behind early. Spanish Fort scored three runs in the first inning to take the lead. Errors cost the Canes as only one of those runs was earned.
Spanish Fort would strike again for two more runs in the fourth inning, but Cartersville would respond in the bottom of the fifth when freshman catcher Jacob Fowler doubled off the wall to bring in another run. Brent Arnold then connected on a two-run home run, part of a three-run inning.
Heading into the sixth inning, Cartersville only trailed by two runs. However, Spanish Fort put together a strong offensive inning of its own, scoring two to take a 7-3 lead.
That would be the final score, although the Canes did threaten in the bottom of the inning.
“We had the bases loaded with two outs, tying run at the plate and our three-hole hitter up,” Tucker said. “We hit a shot but it was right at the shortstop to end the game.”
Cartersville bounced back in the evening game against South Gwinnett thanks to strong performances by Lane Wilson and another two-run homer from Arnold.
Wilson picked up the win and pitched six innings in relief while only allowing one run. Wilson has now been the pitcher of record for both of Cartersville’s wins this season.
Cartersville scored one run in the first, three in the fourth and two in the sixth. Elliot Anderson and Clifton Dempsey each had an RBI in the game. Arnold hit his home run in the sixth inning.
“It was good to leave with a win. Obviously, we wanted to do better than 1-3, but it’s just a tough tournament. There are really good teams,” Tucker said. “You want to win, but we felt like we competed really well with some really good teams.”
Cartersville is now 2-4 on the season as it prepares for region play. The Canes will not play again until Friday, when they host Lassiter and will unveil their state championship sign on the outfield wall.