CARTERSVILLE - The champs are still alive.
After getting blanked 1-0 by pitcher Perry Keith and the Callaway Cavaliers in Game 1 of a quarterfinal playoff series, the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes fought back to win the second game 4-3 to force a third and deciding game today at 6 p.m.
Cartersville, which is seeking its second straight state title and its seventh championship since 2001, scored three runs in the top of the first inning, and it made that lead stand up.
The Cavaliers fought back and made a game of it, but they were unable to make it all the way back.
“We know these guys are not going to roll over and give it to you,” Callaway coach Dusty Hubbard said. “We know they have a championship pedigree, and we’ll have to beat them. They’re not going to give it to you.”
After freshman Dylan Johnson hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to make it a 4-3 game, the Cavaliers had their chances to get even.
In the sixth inning, the Cavaliers got two hits but were unable to score, and they had another base runner in the seventh inning, but again couldn’t notch the tying run.
The game ended when Cody Mimbs hammered a line drive that was caught by pitcher Lane Wilson.
“You have to give yourself a chance to win. We did that,” Hubbard said. “In that last inning, Cody hit that ball about as hard as you can.”
Nick O’Berry got the start for the Cavaliers, and he pitched five innings and did a nice job of bouncing back after the difficult first inning.
Cartersville only had one hit in the first inning, but there were also three walks, and a costly wild pitch that allowed two runs to score.
Cartersville added its final run in the fourth inning on a double by Mark Quattelbaum.
In his last inning of work, O’Berry retired the Hurricanes in order in the top of the fifth.
Hubbard said O’Berry did an admirable job of fighting through some physical issues.
“He showed guts,” Hubbard said. “He was hurting before the game. We almost didn’t go with him. He was cramping some, and he had some soreness in his shoulder. He got down 3-0, and the joker ends up giving us five good innings, and gave us a chance to win. He showed a lot of guts, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Johnson relieved O’Berry in the sixth inning, and he threw two scoreless innings.
After shortstop Austin Garrett made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch to start an inning-ending double play in the top of the second, Callaway cut into Cartersville’s lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
After fouling off several two-strike pitches, C.J. Gallatin reached on a single leading off.
Two batters later, Terry Godwin’s sacrifice fly brought in courtesy runner Jaylen Colton, and it was a 3-1 game.
With two outs and the bases empty, Keith and Johnson came through with back-to-back hits, and O’Berry then lined a base hit into right field to plate another run, and the deficit was down to one.
Cartersville starter Elliott Anderson got a groundout with runners on second and third to get out of the inning with his team still on top.
Trailing 4-2, Johnson stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning and ripped the ball over the left-field fence for the solo home run.
Garrett walked with one out, but Wilson came into the game at that point and got the final two outs of the inning, and the Hurricanes still had the lead.
After Johnson worked around a couple of base runners in the top of the sixth without giving up a run, the Cavaliers went to work in their half of the inning when Kevin Craft delivered a one-out single.
Colton, who was pinch-running for Craft, took off for second when the ball got away from the catcher.
Catcher Elliott Berrey quickly came up with the ball, and he was able to throw Colton out at second for the second out.
That play proved costly for the Cavaliers when Godwin followed with a double, but Hubbard said aggressive base running is a big part of what his team does, and he had no problem with Colton trying to get to second.
“We hurt ourselves with some base running, but you know what, if you’re aggressive, you’re going to do that,” Hubbard said. “We read a ball in the dirt, and the catcher back hands and gloves it, and makes the play.”
The inning ended with a groundout, and Godwin was stranded on second.
The Hurricanes had two runners on in the top of the seventh, but a double play ended the inning.
The Cavaliers came to bat in the bottom of the seventh needing a run to keep the game alive.
With two outs, Garrett kept the Cavaliers in it when he beat out an infield single.
Mimbs then hit the ball on the nose, but Wilson stuck his glove out and made the play, and that was that.
“I don’t think the situation was too big for them,” Hubbard said of his players. “You knew (the Hurricanes) were going to battle.”