Cartersville’s 2014 second-round playoff series was against the same opponent, Woodward Academy, but the series was not nearly as close as the Canes rolled to a sweep by scores of 5-1 and 11-4 Wednesday at Richard Bell Field.
“It was a great win,” Cartersville head coach Stuart Chester said. “We’re still bitten by the injury bug, but our guys got guts. They just absolutely compete.”
The Canes will return to Richard Bell Field for the quarterfinal three-game series against Callaway on Tuesday.
Cartersville 5, Woodward Academy 1
Cartersville was short a couple of pitchers and needed a lengthy outing from whoever it put on the mound for Game 1.
The Canes got exactly that from senior pitcher Garrett Rutledge as he threw a complete game three-hitter with three strikeouts and only allowed one run.
“He struggled a bit early on, but it’s the same old Garrett. He just gets better as the game goes on,” Chester said. “If you get him, you better get him early on.”
Cartersville dominated in the field, at the plate and on the mound in the game.
The highlight of the night came in the first inning when Mark Quattlebaum robbed Woodward’s Richard Jackson of a hit with a diving, backhand catch on a sinking liner in left field.
In addition to Quattlebaum’s first-inning defense, the bats also produced in the opening stanza. The rally began when Brent Arnold lined a double to right-center field with one out. Sophomore Elliott Anderson was the next batter and took the first pitch he saw over the first baseman’s head and down the right field line for a double to score Arnold.
The second inning brought more of the same with a little help from Woodward’s defense, which had recorded 60 errors on the year heading into the series. With the bases loaded and two outs, Arnold connected for a hard-hit ball to the shortstop, who was unable to get his glove down as the ball bounced away to score two runs. The next batter was Anderson, who hit a single up the middle to score another run with two outs. Cameron Neal followed Anderson with a single of his own when he sent an 0-2 pitch into the hole between first and second base.
Neal’s single made the score 5-1 after Woodward got on the board in the top of the second.
Cartersville was able to preserve that lead due to its strong defense behind Rutledge. Catcher Elliott Berrey threw out two would-be base stealers in the first and fourth innings.
In that fourth inning, Rutledge got into trouble after two consecutive walks with one out. He then got behind in the count, 3-1, on Woodward’s Matt Park.
It was then that Berrey went to the mound and talked to Rutledge. The discussion seemed to work as Rutledge threw two consecutive strikes to strike out Park swinging. Berrey recorded the final out of the inning when he caught a baserunner stealing.
After Berrey went to the mound, Rutledge struck out the next three batters he faced, all swinging, and did not allow a hit the rest of the game. His performance was crucial as he threw 109 pitches, preserving the bullpen for the second game.
Despite Rutledge’s high pitch count, Chester never considered taking him out.
“Our pitching staff is thin, but I didn’t really [consider taking him out of the game] because he gets better the more he throws,” Chester said. “Just the way he is, it would have taken a crowbar to get him out of there.”
Cartersville 11, Woodward Academy 4
Even with Woodward Academy’s back to the wall and hard-throwing Chris Turner on the mound, Cartersville jumped out to an early lead in Game 2 and comfortably held on for the win.
Cartersville once again dominated in every phase, recording 11 hits, allowing two runs through the first six innings and flashing the leather on occasion, as well.
The Canes scored two runs in the top of the first inning on an error and a Riley Richards RBI single.
Woodward had a chance to chip into that lead in the bottom of the inning with a runner in scoring position and two outs. Woodward’s Drew Mancuso hit a flare into shallow left field that appeared likely to drop and score Jackson from second base. However, senior shortstop Clifton Dempsey ranged back and made a diving basket catch in shallow left field to end the inning and save a run.
Cartersville would only add more runs to the lead in the fourth as Woodward’s Turner began to lose control. In that fourth inning, Cartersville scored four runs on a walk, two hits and three hit batsmen.
The four-run fourth made the score 6-0.
“That Turner kid is pretty good. He throws hard, has a pretty good breaking ball,” Chester said of his team scoring six runs on Turner. “We have come together and have gotten a lot better since the beginning of the year. We’re starting to gel at the right time.”
Woodward and Cartersville then traded runs in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth thanks to Quattlebaum’s RBI double.
The Canes’ bats would continue to rake in the seventh when Dempsey hit a line drive into the right-center filed gap for a triple, scoring Quattlebaum from first. Neal drove in Dempsey later in the inning with a deep sacrifice fly to center field.
The final blow came off the bat of Riley Richards, who lined a single to right field with runners on first and second base. The hard-hit ball got past the Woodward right fielder and went to the fence, scoring two more runs.
The 11 runs was more than enough for Cartersville’s starting pitcher, Anderson, who pitched five innings, allowed one earned run, four hits and struck out seven.
Destin Herron then pitched the final two innings, allowing two hits and two unearned runs to go along with two strikeouts.