Canes return to state quarterfinals by edging Flowery Branch
The Cartersville High School baseball team held off visiting Flowery Branch Thursday in a pair of closely contested games and will advance to the Class AAAA state quarterfinals for the 21st time in the last 24 seasons.
The two-game sweep also garnered the Hurricanes' senior class their 100th and 101st career wins.
Canes’ senior ace and Auburn commit Mason Barnett (photo from earlier this season) pitched another gem in the opening 2-0 win and Game 2 starter Logan Martin (5 IP, 2ER, 3H, 3BB, 5K) -- a University of the South signee -- went five solid innings before giving way to Gage Morris. Morris, a LaGrange College signee, picked up saves in both games needing only two pitches for the final out of the first game. He then escaped a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh in the second game to secure the Hurricanes’ 3-2 win. Morris recorded the final six outs in Game 2 allowing three hits and no walks with three strikeouts.
The pitching was almost as good for Flowery Branch.
Florida State commit Andrew Armstrong (6 IP, 2ER, 2H, 1BB, 9K) went all six innings of the opener for the Falcons. Then in the nightcap, Tennessee commit Zander Sechrist (5 IP, 3ER, 7H, 2BB, 5K) pitched the Falcons into the sixth inning before giving way to Zack Wagner (1 IP, 3K) and Nick Linkowski (1 IP, 1H, 1K) for a pair of scoreless innings.
Cartersville’s two runs in Game 1 came in the fifth inning.
Ian Inaba and Brant Smith were both hit by pitches. Kolby Adams followed with an RBI single and Smith scored on a fielder’s choice one out later with some heads-up base running.
Barnett and Morris made the 2-0 lead hold up for the Canes’ third straight playoff shutout.
In Game 2, Cartersville scored all three of its runs in the top of the third after two outs.
Singles by Josh Davis, Preston Welchel, and Mason Barnett along with a walk to Cohen Wilbanks plated the Canes’ first run. Jordan Wilkie then lined home two more runs with a single into right centerfield that scored Wilbanks’ courtesy runner Davis Williams and Josh Davis. The Falcons narrowed the margin to 3-2 in the fifth inning and threatened again in the seventh. Grant Lackey had a two-out, two-run bloop single Flowery Branch in the fifth but Logan Martin was able to end that threat with a strikeout of the next batter. In the seventh, the Falcons loaded the bases off Morris with only one out. Connor Larson and Lackey singled and J Beaver reached on an infield error, but Morris — who has not allowed an earned run all season — ended the game with a strikeout and a deep fly out to right field.
Freshman Baxley O’Brien had the only hit of Game 1 for Flowery Branch.
Lackey paced the Falcons in Game 2 with a pair of hits and two RBI. Kaleb Freeman, Jake Beaver, Larson, and Armstrong had the other Flowery Branch hits.
Wilkie and Davis led Cartersville in the doubleheader with three hits each. Wilkie, a Lipscomb signee, drove in two runs. Davis had one RBI.
Barnett, Kolby Adams, Smith, and Welchel had the other Canes’ hits on the night.
The season ends for Flowery Branch with a 16-14 record.
Cartersville (28-4) will host Northside-Columbus in the Class AAAA state quarterfinals next Wednesday at Richard Bell Field. The best-of-three series will begin with a doubleheader. If a third game is needed, it will also be hosted by Cartersville the next day.
The Hurricanes will be seeking a trip to the state semifinals for the 13th time in the last 31 years.
The Patriots (26-7) swept Perry Thursday night in their second round series. Northside won the opener 8-1 and the nightcap 11-3.