It was a roller-coaster ride of emotions Monday night for both Cartersville and Jefferson in the Class AAAA State Championship Series doubleheader opener at State Mutual Stadium in Rome, but when the dust settled the series was knotted at one apiece.
Jefferson jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in Game 1 and held off the late-charging Hurricanes 5-4 to put the Canes on the brink of elimination.
It was Cartersville, however, that took advantage of opportunities in Game 2. Anthony Seigler (photo above) gave the Canes a much-needed five inning start on the mound and the offense took advantage of multiple miscues for a 9-3 nightcap win that forces a rubber game Wednesday for the 2018 Class AAAA title.
Cartersville (32-9) won the coin toss that followed the doubleheader split and will be the home team in Wednesday’s winner-take-all championship game again in Rome. The game time will be either 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. pending the outcome of Tuesday night’s Class 6A doubleheader between Pope and Allatoona. If either of those teams sweep, the Cartersville/Jefferson finale’ will start at 7 p.m. If Pope and Allatoona need a third game, the Cartersville/Jefferson game will start at 5 p.m.
In Monday night’s opener, Jefferson (27-12) grabbed a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of Canes’ ace starter Mason Barnett.
Zac Corbin led off with a single and scored on a triple by Lane Watkins. Ryan Godfrey and Billy Finch both singled for a 2-0 lead before a double by Clayton Jones and another single by Mason Cooper gave the Dragons a 4-0 start.
Jefferson tacked on a fifth run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Godfrey and Dragons’ ace Patrick Hickox (photo) made the five run total stand up.
Jefferson's crafty southpaw needed only 83 pitches in his complete game victory. Hickox scattered seven hits and allowed only two earned runs (four total) without issuing a walk. He fanned five.
Cartersville made it interesting late with a three-run sixth inning highlighted by Seigler's RBI triple. The Hurricanes added another run in the seventh but couldn't draw any closer. Hickox survived the final frame that included a deep fly out by Seigler and a Barnett line out to shortstop Corbin that ended the game.
Barnett (1.1 IP, 4ER, 7H, 3BB, 2K) started on the bump was lifted in the second inning for Levi Ayers (4.2 IP, 1ER, 1H, 2BB, 4K) who closed out Game 1 for the Canes.
Godfrey pace Jefferson with three hits and one RBI. Cooper, Jones, Finch, and Watkins all had one hit and one RBI each. Corbin added the other Dragons’ base hit with his leadoff single in the first.
In Game 2, it was the Hurricanes that took an early lead and held off the Dragons. Jefferson did contribute to their own demise, however, with seven walks, three hit batsmen, and seven errors.
While the Dragons stumbled, Cartersville did what good teams do. The Hurricanes took advantage of almost every opportunity and Jefferson mistake.
Click on photo to enlarge.
PHOTOS (L-R starting top left): Both teams line up for the National Anthem; Coaches David Cagle and Kyle Tucker; Levi Ayers; Preston Welchel; Jake Gooch; Devin Warner; Anthony Seigler; Ian Inaba; Brant Smith; Mason Barnett.
Seigler (5 IP, 2ER, 7H, 3BB, 6K) started on the mound as a southpaw and completed five innings. It was the ambidextrous hurler's first game action as a left-handed pitcher since March 9. He moved back to catcher in the sixth with his team on top, 8-2 and gave way to Gage Morris (2 IP, 1ER, 3H, 0BB, 1K) who closed out the final six outs.
The Canes took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Jake Gooch RBI double but Jefferson tied it in the top of the second inning with a Sammy Elegreet run producing single.
From there, Cartersville scored seven unanswered runs in their next three frames to lead 8-1.
The Dragons scored single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. The Hurricanes tacked on a single run in the sixth.
Jefferson never made it easy on the Canes. The Dragons had four different players with two hits each and out hit Cartersville ten to six.
Billy Finch (RBI, double), Ryan Godfrey, Lane Watkins, and Kade McNally all had two hits for Jefferson. Clayton Jones added an RBI double and Elegreet had one hit and one RBI.
Brant Smith paced the Canes with two hits including a towering triple off the base of the left field wall. Gooch drove in a pair of runs on a double and a sacrifice fly. J.P. Martin, Ian Inaba, and Preston Welchel all added one hit and one RBI.
Jefferson utilized four different pitchers in Game 2 with UGA-commit and starter Lane Watkins (3 IP, 7R, 5ER, 3H, 5BB, 1K) suffering the loss. Brycen Jewell (1 IP, 1ER, 2H, 1BB, 2K), Will Wood (1 IP, 0R, 0H, 1BB, 2K), and Derek Vaughn (1 IP, 1ER, 1H) each threw an inning.
"Hey, I'm happy with the way our guys competed in Game 2," said Cartersville skipper Kyle Tucker following the doubleheader. "I tell them all the time that you don't have to get 20 hits to score a lot of runs. We preach on-base percentage. Get on any way you can. We did a lot of that in this second game and we have another chance Wednesday night."