The Canes managed to split two games Monday at Buford High to set up a Game 3 back at Buford at 5:55 p.m.
However, Cartersville head Coach Stuart Chester will not be present in the dugout after being ejected with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 2 because a video camera was filming in the Cartersville dugout.
“When it’s your livelihood, it’s hard and this is what I do for a living,” Chester said of his feelings over missing Game 3. “It’s tough when we talk about family, and we talk about taking care of each other and not to be there. It’s tough, but they are grown men. We have a lot of leaders on this team and they’ll have to step up. We have a great coaching staff. It’s not like I do everything and I’m the man. We do it together.”
According to GHSA rules, video cameras are not permitted in the dugout during play. A violation of the rule results in an immediate ejection and two-game suspension, meaning Chester will miss Game 1 of the state championship if Cartersville advances. Chester said his team often has a video camera in the dugout and ‘everyone does it.’”
Chester said of the incident, “[The home plate umpire] looked at me and said, ‘That’s a camera’ and he said, ‘the rule is you’re gone.’ And I was like, ‘You have to be kidding me.’ I said, ‘You warned the pitcher twice about a balk.’ ... It’s a rule, but it would have just been easier to say, ‘Hey, coach Chester, this is a warning.’ The other two umpires were trying to talk him out of it so I don’t know what he was doing. That’s a big game and it’s just unbelievable. I’m very disappointed.”
Buford 4, Cartersville 0
Cartersville starting pitcher Hunter Osborn pitched for the first time in 27 days in Game 1, but one mistake in the second inning and a lack of run support resulted in the loss.
Buford’s Patrick Burnette blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning to take a 4-0 lead.
Burnette’s hit was the major blemish for Osborn, who allowed four hits in four innings of work and struck out eight.
“[Osborn] just made one bad pitch and it cost us, and for not stepping on the mound for 27 days, he did exactly what we needed him to do,” Chester said.
The four run-lead would prove to be more than enough for Buford as junior Clemson commit Jake Higginbotham shut down the Canes through seven two-hit innings. The left-handed pitcher had 10 strikeouts on the game.
“Higginbotham did a great job of keeping us off balance,” Chester said. “He’s a competitor, throws strikes and has a very live arm.”
Jack Mayo came in for Cartersville and pitched two scoreless innings to finish the game in his first action of the playoffs.
Cartersville had been hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position in the postseason but stranded the bases loaded with one out in the team’s best scoring chance in the sixth inning.
Cartersville 7, Buford 2
The Cartersville bats have come alive in Game 2s this postseason and did so once again against Buford with Higginbotham off the bump.
Cattersville’s first run of the series came off the bat of Clifton Dempsey who, with the bases loaded, two outs and two strikes, hit a two-run double into the left-center field gap.
It was Dempsey’s 10th RBI of the playoffs and second of three hits in the two games.
“I’m telling you, he’s money,” Chester said. “He’s the type of man that you want to come to you door and ask for your daughter because you know what you’re getting. You know once he makes a commitment, it’s for life. He made a commitment to this baseball team and we’re here because of players like Clifton Dempsey.”
After Dempsey, Brent Arnold was the next batter for Cartersville and he skyrocketed a three-run home run to make the score 5-0.
Arnold had hit three hard-hit balls to the outfield in the first game and it was a matter of time before he got a hold of one, according to Chester.
“He was on,” Chester said of Arnold. “He might have missed one here or there, but he’ll run into one. If he keeps swinging the bat well, I like our chances.”
Buford’s Joey Bart cut into the lead in the top of the third when he hit a two-run shot of his own. However, that would be all the runs Buford would score as Canes pitcher Garrett Rutledge threw his fourth complete game of the postseason. He struck out five batters and allowed five hits in seven innings.
Rutledge helped himself in the fifth inning when he lined a two-out double to score Cam Neal from third base.
Neal got on base five times for Cartersville in seven plate appearances for the Canes.
“It was an outside fastball,” Rutledge said of the pitch he hit for a double. “I was sitting on a fastball and adjusting to anything else.”
The Canes would tack on one final run in the sixth inning and force a Game 3.
“We’ve been hit so hard with graduations. These guys have not had any experience and they’ve been tested,” Chester said. “In my 24 years, that’s the most proud I’ve ever been about a group.”