Cartersville offense comes alive late to salvage split
It’s postseason time at Cartersville Baseball Complex, so of course, a Seigler hit a clutch home run.
Cio Seigler — whose brother, Anthony, hit a few big-time dingers himself at the complex — ripped a two-run shot over the fence in right center for a 2-1 lead in Game 2 of a Region 5-AAAA series. The homer marked the team’s first runs of Monday’s doubleheader after Cartersville fell 2-0 to Chapel Hill in the opener.
Seigler’s fourth inning blast kickstarted a Canes offense that had just four hits in Game 1. Cartersville went on to score five runs in the fifth and eight more in the sixth to earn a 15-4, six-inning win to force a winner-take-all game at 5:55 p.m. today at the complex.
“It still took a few innings into this game for our bats to really get going and producing some runs the way we know we’re capable of,” Canes head coach Shannon Suarez said after the doubleheader. “We went nine innings without scoring. That’s something you don’t want to see this time of year.
“I was proud of them to come out, respond and get a little fight in them.”
After Chapel Hill (6-21) stranded two runners in the first inning of Game 2, Cartersville (14-12) squandered a chance with the bases loaded in the second. The visitors, who were batting as the home team in the nightcap, took the lead in the bottom of the third after a leadoff triple.
Anna Kate McElhaney began Cartersville’s next turn at bat with her fourth of an eventual six hits on the day. Following a sacrifice bunt, Seigler’s rope cleared the fence to finally allow the Canes to exhale.
“She took the pressure off and put us on the scoreboard for the first time all night,” Suarez said of Seigler’s homer. “I think it ignited us a little bit. It gave us the feeling that we’re back in the game and that there was hope for us.”
That belief only grew over the following two frames, as Cartersville made the shutout loss seem like a distant memory in racking up 18 total hits in Game 2.
In the fifth, Canes pitcher McKinley Chada aided her own cause with an RBI groundout to score Campbell Rogers. Anna Kate McElhaney followed with a hit to score Lauren McElhaney. A single and an intentional walk to Seigler loaded the bases before a conventional free pass forced home a run for a 5-1 lead.
Following a fielder’s choice, Elizabeth Nelson blooped an RBI single and Rogers ripped a run-scoring hit to give the Canes a 7-1 edge. But the Panthers responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to remain within touching distance.
By the time Chapel Hill came up to bat in the sixth, the team was so far behind it couldn’t see Cartersville let alone touch the Canes. It took until the 13th batter of the inning for the Panthers to record their second out, and by that time, Suarez’s group had raced out to a 15-3 lead.
Chada, Anna Kate McElhaney and Hope Short hit consecutive singles before an infield fly. The next eight batters combined to hit five singles, reach on two errors and get hit by one pitch. Kiley Arnold, Rogers, Emery Jenkins and Short had run-scoring hits in the frame.
“That’s the team that I know I have,” Suarez said. “It will be huge for them to show up [today] and pick right back up.”
Chapel Hill managed three hits, including a solo home run, in the bottom of the sixth, but the Panthers came up well short in their hopes of extending the game to a seventh inning.
In the first game, Cartersville received two hits from Anna Kate McElhaney and one apiece from Rogers and Seigler. However, outs on the bases by the latter two allowed the Panthers to keep the Canes off the board. Rogers was cut down at home in the sixth, and Seigler was caught stealing third in the seventh.
Chapel Hill pounded out 13 hits but only managed single runs in the third and fifth innings. Both times the top of the order did the damage with the Panthers’ leadoff hitter scoring both runs.
“Keeping them off the bases is going to be the key to a win,” Suarez said.
In Game 2, Chada allowed four earned runs on nine hits and one walk. She struck out two. In the opener, Arnold gave up a baker’s dozen of hits but didn’t walk anybody and struck out a pair.
“They both came out and were deserving of wins, for sure,” Suarez said her freshmen pitchers. “Kiley, in the first game, just didn’t get the run support she needed. They got ahead of hitters, they didn’t try to do too much, they kept the ball down and didn’t get hurt in pitcher’s counts, which is good.
“I was definitely proud of them, and they’re going to have to come back and answer the call again [today].”
In Game 2, Short finished 4-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt, a run scored and an RBI, and Anna Kate McElhaney went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two driven in. Nelson (HBP, run and RBI), Rogers (walk, two runs and two RBIs) and Lauren McElhaney (two runs) had two hits each.
Jenkins and Arnold had RBI hits in their only plate appearances with the latter driving home a pair. Seigler and Mattie Johnson had a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs apiece. The only difference in their two lines was Seigler’s homer that really seemed to lead to all of the offensive production.
The resulting onslaught had Suarez feeling pretty good about her team’s chances of winning today’s decisive game, which would guarantee Cartersville its first state playoff bid since 2016.
“Better now, I feel like we have momentum,” Suarez said of her feelings entering Game 3. “… We are the better team, I think, one through nine. We need to show up and show it.”