Cartersville falls to Hoover, finishes PG Showdown at 2-2
Homerun by Preston Welchel
Homerun by JP Martin
Homerun by Brant Smith
Cartersville baseball loves to play in prestigious events for a multitude of reasons, perhaps most importantly, facing some of the best teams from around the country gives the Canes pretty good insight into the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
While the chief goal for this week’s Perfect Game High School Showdown would have been to win the title, Cartersville returns with a 2-2 record against top-notch opposition, after falling to Hoover (Alabama) by an 8-4 final in the third-place game of the Blue bracket Saturday.
Based on the Canes’ performances in the tournament, which took place in Hoover, as well as Cartersville’s other eight games to this point, a few trends are already evident.
The team still has some outstanding starting pitching and one of the best relief pitchers in the state, but depth could be a concern come state playoff time, particularly if the Canes (9-3) are dealing with any significant injuries.
Offensively, Cartersville has shown ample power this season. Against Hoover, the Canes launched three home runs. Preston Welchel and J.P. Martin each hit their third round-tripper already this season, while Brant Smith launched his second.
However, all three were solo home runs, showcasing a reliance on extra-base hits that could prove detrimental against better pitching. (It should be noted Hoover was also playing its fourth game in three days, so neither team had an abundance of pitching available.)
Cartersville has been able to scratch out runs at opportune times during the season. Saturday, though, the Canes stranded two runners apiece in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings before leaving the bags loaded in the seventh. Of those situations, only a base-loaded sacrifice fly by Smith in the fifth led to any runs.
While Saturday’s setback and Friday’s 2-0 loss to Blessed Trinity in the semifinals will leave a sour taste in the Canes’ mouth, it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Cartersville went 2-0 in a pool against the No. 2 team in Alabama and the preseason No. 2 team in Mississippi’s Class 4A.
On Saturday, Hoover jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Welchel led off the bottom of the fourth with his homer. A five-run top of the fifth allowed Hoover to seize control. Cartersville scored one run apiece over each of the final three innings and brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but a flyout ended the game.
Welchel had two hits, while Martin, Smith, Jordan Wilkie, Ian Inaba and Cohen Wilbanks picked up one apiece.
Kolby Adams threw the first three innings for the Canes, allowing two unearned runs on four hits with five strikeouts. Hayden Davidson pitched two perfect frames to keep the Buccaneers at bay late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the rough fifth inning.
Just four of Hoover’s runs were earned due to four errors by the Canes, pointing to the streakiness of the Cartersville defense, which has played phenomenal at times this season. But again, that’s why the Canes play in events like this — nothing else can replicate the level of talent and number of games the team will see in the state tournament.
Speaking of which, next on the schedule for Cartersville is a game at the site of last year’s Class 4A state finals. The Canes are set to face Sonoraville at 10 a.m. next Saturday at State Mutual Stadium in Rome.