Cartersville’s Tucker, Welchel, Barnett land region superlatives
As expected after winning the Region 5-AAAA championship outright, the Cartersville baseball team was well-represented on the all-region team announced Wednesday.
Seniors Preston Welchel and Mason Barnett were named the region’s player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Head coach Kyle Tucker landed the coach of the year honor, following an 11-1 campaign to capture a second region title in as many seasons leading the Canes.
Five other Cartersville players were also recognized. Second baseman Josh Davis and left fielder Ian Inaba earned first-team selection; right-handed pitcher Logan Martin and shortstop Jordan Wilkie garnered second-team honors; and catcher/pitcher Cohen Wilbanks gained an honorable-mention spot.
Stats for the rest of the region were unavailable, but it’s hard to fathom anybody in the seven-team league having a better region season than Welchel. Per stats provided by the Canes, the steady center fielder, who didn’t have an error all year, hit a whopping .594 across 12 league games with a .705 on-base percentage and .969 slugging percentage.
For the season, Welchel slashed .408/.520/.745 with nine doubles, three triples and six home runs. The South Alabama signee had 40 hits, 20 walks (against 15 strikeouts), scored 29 runs and drove in 34. He was the only Cane to feature in every game this year.
Barnett suffered the only blemish on his sparkling 10-1 record in region play, but the Auburn signee remained his dominant self over the course of his four league starts. He finished 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in those contests. Barnett also posted a .419/.538/.581 slash line at the dish in region games.
Over 12 starts, Barnett threw two complete games, while compiling a 0.47 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and a .131 batting average allowed. He struck out 90 batters against 24 walks, giving up four earned runs over 59 1/3 innings.
Davis finished the year with a triple-slash line of .391/.468/.536. During the region portion of the schedule, he reached base in exactly 50% of his at-bats. The only junior in Cartersville’s starting lineup, Davis led the team in hits (43), runs scored (32) and stolen bases (8).
Perhaps the most improved Cartersville hitter from last year to this season, Inaba fully deserved a first-team spot on the back of his .438 average and .526 OBP in region play alone. Add in his outstanding defense, which included no errors and three outfield assists, and Inaba had to be among the top all-around players in the region. He finished his senior season with 32 hits, 16 runs scored and 12 RBIs.
Martin stormed onto the scene this season and slotted in perfectly into the Cartersville rotation. He started the second game of every Canes playoff series, and the senior finished 3-0 in region play with a 1.07 ERA. Over the course of the year, the University of the South-Sewanee signee threw 60 innings, striking out 90 against 22 walks, to go with a 1.98 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 9-1 record.
A Lipscomb signee, Wilkie hit .325 for the season and .316 in the league — one of just a few Canes to hit better against non-region competition. Even so, Wilkie had nine runs scored and eight RBIs in 11 region contests. He wound up with 37 hits, 24 runs scored, 18 RBIs and five steals in as many chances this year.
Wilbanks saw a vast majority of the starts behind the plate this season, but he also stepped into a role as part of the Canes core rotation. His best pitching came in his four region starts, when he went 3-0 with two complete games, a 1.64 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. A Lee University signee, Wilbanks had a steady approach at the plate, posting an OBP above .450 during his senior season.