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Canes advance to state quarterfinals with a pair of dramatic 4-3 wins at Decatur

Game 2 starter, Phillip Schiltz, was one of four Canes pitchers to contribute strong performances Wednesday in Cartersville's playoff sweep at Decatur.

The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes pulled out a pair of dramatic 4-3 wins Wednesday evening at 2nd-ranked Decatur to win their GHSA Class 5A best-of-three state playoff second round series over the Bulldogs at McKoy Park. The two victories means Cartersville baseball has now advanced to the Elite Eight 22 times since 1996.

The Canes rode strong pitching performances and produced timely runs in both games to reach the 2021 state quarterfinals.

In their Game 1 win, the Canes never led until their final offensive frame but pulled out an exciting one-run win.

Cartersville starting pitcher Micah Earwood (9-1) put together another outstanding performance winning his ninth consecutive decision and his second of the postseason. Earwood hurled six innings allowing three earned runs on four hits and a pair of walks. He fanned eleven, pushing his season strikeout number over the century mark. Decatur held leads of 1-0 and 3-1 but the Hurricanes came back each time. The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a solo home run by Levi Clark. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes remained hitless until the top of the fifth inning when Elliott Eastin tied the game with a solo home run of his own. Decatur starting pitcher Brady Jones (6 IP, 3ER, 5H, 4BB, 7K) made things difficult for the Canes with a strong start but left the game without a decision.

The Bulldogs regained a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth. A walk, hit batsman, and a pair of singles by Mekhi Lloyd and Dysan McCray plated Decatur’s second run. A sac fly by Brady Jones gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. The Canes responded to tie the game for a second time in the top of the sixth. Hank Smith walked to open the inning and Parker McPherson followed with a long, two-run home run to knot the score, 3-3.

Cartersville grabbed its first lead in the top of the seventh.

Curt Bonner doubled into left field and Smith followed with what would be the game winning RBI single and a 4-3 lead.

The Canes turned to reliever Davis Williams to close out the Bulldogs in the seventh inning. Williams hit a batter and intentionally walked one, but struck out the side to secure the save.

In addition to the Cartersville hits previously mentioned in the opening game, Blake Sutton, Harrison Childers, and Paul Gamble had base hits.

In the series clinching win, the Hurricanes led the entire way but the Bulldogs refused to go down easily. Cartersville scored twice in the first inning without benefit of a base hit. A pair of walks, a hit batsman, and a fielder’s choice plated the early go-ahead runs. Decatur cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the second with a single, two stolen bases, and a wild pitch, but the Canes answered that run with one of their own — again without a base hit. Two walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases with no outs. A groundout double play followed but a run scored giving Cartersville a 3-1 lead. Parker McPherson led off the Canes’ fourth inning with a double, moved to third after a hit batsman and a walk, then scored on a wild pitch for a 4-1 Canes advantage.

Decatur scored twice in the fifth inning on an error and back-to-back singles of Cartersville starting pitcher Phillip Schiltz, but Gunner Millsap was inserted and recorded a strikeout to end the threat preserving a 4-3 lead.

From there Canes head coach Kyle Tucker turned to shut down reliever Davis Williams who retired the Bulldogs in order in the sixth and seventh innings for a two-inning save. Schiltz tossed 4 and 2/3 innings in his start allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks. He struck out seven. Millsap struck out the only batter he faced in the fifth inning and Williams struck out three in a pair of 1-2-3 frames. Curt Bonner and McPherson had the only Cartersville base hits with Elliott Eastin driving in two runs. The Canes took advantage of six walks and were hit by pitches five times.

The two losses for Decatur halted a 21-game win streak for the Bulldogs. The hosts finished their season with a 28-6 record. Cartersville improved to 26-8 with their second straight playoff sweep. The Canes advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals where they must travel to Ware County. That series will begin with a doubleheader in Waycross on Monday. Start time to be announced. Ware County swept McIntosh in their second round series with 6-1 and 5-1 finals. In other Class 5A action, Calhoun was eliminated by Greenbrier 6-2 and 2-0. Starr’s Mill swept Coffee 9-5 and 8-0 and Wayne County defeated Northside-Columbus Monday and Tuesday in three games. Northside won the middle game 1-0. Wayne had 8-7 and 8-0 wins. The three other second round series in Class 5A will be decided Thursday after splitting doubleheaders Wednesday. Those three series include top-ranked Blessed Trinity hosting St. Pius, Harris County at Ola, and Loganville at North Springs.


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