However, the Cartersville lineup heated up and scored seven runs in the final three innings to pull away from the Tigers and win by a score of 8-1 to improve to 3-0 in Region 5-AAA.
“It’s a big win because it’s the next region game, and being in the same county, [Adairsville head coach Billy Roper] has done a great job,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “They have a good baseball program and to come here and win is huge against a quality baseball team like Adairsville.”
Adairsville was able to strike first in the game as the Tigers capitalized on two walks drawn by Hunter Smith and Colin Bearden and an error to bring in a run on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Cartersville answered back in the second when Clifton Dempsey singled to bring in Cameron Neal, who tripled to lead off the inning.
The score was tied at one when each team’s starting pitcher began to settle in.
Sean McDermott, making his first start of the season, retired all six batters he faced in the third and fourth innings to keep the game tied.
“Early on [in the year], he had some arm troubles, but we felt good about him the last couple of weeks and he wanted the ball. I think we found another pitcher today,” Roper said. “I was pleased with our pitching. Our pitching is keeping us in games right now.”
On the other side, Destin Herron pitched for Cartersville and allowed just the one run and one hit in his 3 1/3 innings of work. Herron was coming off a win in his first region start of the season against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in which he threw five innings, allowed three hits and struck out six. He was not as sharp Tuesday, but was able to keep his team in the game.
“Mechanically, he wasn’t sound for some reason tonight,” Chester said of Herron. “He wasn’t on. He’s seen better days for sure, but he did a good job and competed. Any pitcher, for them or us, that plays in this weather right here, to throw strikes and just to compete, did a good job in this temperature.”
Herron got into trouble in the fourth inning when he hit a batter, walked another and then got behind 2-0 in the count to Blaine Bishop with one out in the inning.
Chester then made a pitching change, putting Micah Smith in to get out of the threat. Smith threw two more balls to walk Bishop, but then struck out the next batter and induced a weak groundball for the third out of the inning, escaping the threat without a run.
“I thought we had some opportunities early in the game where we could have got some runs and really shook up their pitching and got to another guy,” Roper said. “We had the bases loaded in the fourth inning with one out and we didn’t get anything. Stuff like that has been our Achilles’ heel in the games that we have lost. We got some runners on, we just couldn’t get them in.”
Smith then went on to pitch the fifth and sixth innings without allowing a baserunner while recording three strikeouts. Smith has pitched in each of Cartersville’s last three games. He has accounted for 6 1/3 innings, no hits and eight strikeouts in those three outings against Coahulla Creek, Pepperell and Adairsville. The only baserunners he has allowed in that span were on a walk to Bishop after coming in during a 2-0 count and on an error against Coahulla Creek.
“[Smith] is probably the guy we go to to get to the close because he throws strikes,” Chester said. “His ball has so much movement, he can throw two different pitches and it’s just a funny arm slot, so he’s effective.”
With Adairsville struggling to hit Smith, the Cartersville bats took advantage with a two-run fifth inning. David Darnell led off the inning with a single and advanced to second base on a balk. Lane Wilson then came up and hit a hard grounder to the shortstop, who bobbled the ball, putting runners on the corners with one out. Wilson then stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Garrett Rutledge, who hit a bloop single over the first baseman’s head to score both runners.
“We hadn’t been getting timely hits and tonight, finally with people in scoring position, we punched a few across and guys settled in and did a good job of staying inside the baseball,” Chester said. “They did a good job of staying patient at the plate and getting a pitch they could hit. They just fought it off and went the other way.”
After the two-run inning, Adairsville sophomore pitcher Noah O’Kelley was able to keep his team in the game as he pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit.
However, after O’Kelley left the game, Cartersville was able to break it open in the seventh inning. Mark Quattlebaum walked and stole second base to lead things off for the Canes. Wilson then drove him in with a bloop single over the first baseman’s head down the right field line. Rutledge sacrificed Wilson over, setting the stage for Brent Arnold, who lined a single through the infield to drive in Wilson. Herron would then keep the line moving with a single of his own before Neal recorded his third hit of the game to drive in Arnold.
Dempsey would then pile on by hitting a single of his own, giving Cartersville the 8-1 lead.
“I’m definitely disappointed at how the game got kind of out of hand, but I’m very proud of my guys. Through the fourth inning, it was 1-1. They got a couple of runs and it went to 3-1, but I’m very proud of my guys,” Roper said. “If we would have been able to get some runs early in the game, I think we could have jumped on them and put some pressure on them. But we let them off the hook and they got up on us.
“We only had two hits. You’re not going to beat quality teams in this region with only two hits.”
Leading Cartersville with three hits was Neal, who said all of his hits came on fastballs on the outer half of the plate.
“Coach tells me all the time, my power spot is to right-center, stay up the middle and never to pull off the ball,” Neal said. “He had faith in me and I had faith in myself and I just stuck with it.”
Dempsey, who hit the eventual game-winning RBI single Saturday against Pepperell, hit two more RBI singles Tuesday. Seven out of the nine batters in the Cartersville starting lineup recorded at least one hit and all of them reached base at least once.
For Adairsville, Bishop reached base twice with a single and a walk while Tristin Smith had the other hit for the Tigers.
Adairsville is now 7-5 and 1-2 in region play. The team’s next game will come Thursday on the road against Sonoraville.
Cartersville is now 6-7 and will face another one of the region’s best teams Thursday at home against Ringgold.