That streak will be put on the line when the Purple Hurricanes host Woodward Academy in a three-game series, beginning today at Richard Bell Field.
“Woodward Academy has everything,” Chester said. “They throw it, they hit it, play good defense and they’re well-coached.”
Woodward went 14-14 this season, but 8-2 in region play. The War Eagles advanced to the second round by sweeping Oconee County by scores of 6-2 and 7-5.
They finished third in top-heavy Region 6-AAA behind St. Pius and Blessed Trinity, both of which swept opening round playoff series and are still in play.
Blessed Trinity, the No. 6-ranked team in the state according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pre-playoff poll, defeated Woodward 13-2 and 8-0.
Cartersville is ranked No. 9 in the poll and swept White County in the first round by scores of 3-2 in eight innings and 14-3 in five innings.
The Canes defeated Woodward Academy last year in the same round in a third game, 4-3.
“Last year was a battle [at Richard Bell Field]. We won on a go-ahead run, sac fly in the last inning,” Chester recalled. “Mark Quattlebaum tagged up from second and scored on a sac fly in the third game.”
Woodward boasts a .263 team batting average led by Michael Livingston, who is committed to Young Harris and is hitting .413 with a .486 on-base percentage and two home runs on the season.
Richard Jackson, who is committed to Tennessee, has hit .400 with a .529 on-base percentage and three home runs on the year. Although he is primarily a pitcher, Jackson has served as the designated hitter for the team because of an injury. He has not pitched since March 29 and Chester does not expect to see him on the mound during the series.
Woodward still has some quality pitchers, however, particularly senior left-hander Drew Mancuso, who has a 2.86 earned run average in 49 innings. He pitched in the first game of Woodward’s series with Oconee County and threw 6 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts. Mancuso is committed to Sewanee.
Senior Chris Turner has pitched 35 1/3 innings this year with a 4.36 ERA. He started the second game against Oconee County and threw 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on two hits and five walks, striking out seven. He is committed to Palm Beach State.
The War Eagles also have a sophomore who has had good numbers out of the bullpen in Luke Corbin. He threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings against Oconee in the 7-5 win. He picked up the save along with five strikeouts while allowing three hits. He has pitched 11 1/3 innings on the season and has a 0.62 ERA with 14 strikeouts.
“They have some of the guys back that pitched last year,” Chester said of the Woodward staff. “They throw strikes. They’re crafty. They got a lefty and Chris Turner is a hard thrower.”
Defensively, Woodward has had 60 errors on the year. Despite the high total, Chester still believes his team will have its hands full.
“To be honest with you, in AAA, you get to the last 16 and there’s 16 good teams,” Chester said.
Cartersville also may be without a couple of its pitchers as Destin Herron and Hunter Osborn did not play in the first-round series against White County.
Osborn, the Canes’ ace, had a forearm strain. He has not pitched since April 17. Meanwhile, Herron was the everyday first baseman and a starting pitcher, but has been dealing with a back strain.
Regardless of who is on the field for the Canes, Chester believes his team’s chemistry is better than it has been all season.
“They’re fired up. They’re ready to go,” he said of his players. “We had a great practice [Sunday]. We’re starting to gel a little bit.”
The first pitch of the doubleheader today will be at 4 p.m. If necessary, the third game will by played Thursday.