CARTERSVILLE, Ga. - Moments after the final out was recorded at Richard Bell Field, a chant of "Region champs" rang out across the venerable stadium.
It certainly wasn't a rare chant for a late-April game. After all, the stadium is home to the seven-time region champion. On this night, however, the chant was for the visitors.
Ringgold's dominating 5-0 win over host Cartersville did not sew up the Region 7-AAA title, but it brought the Tigers one major step toward ending the Purple Hurricanes' streak.
Senior right-hander Corey Kafka, pitching what coach Brent Tucker called a career-best game, shut out the 'Canes on four hits - all singles - and struck out eight. The Ringgold offense banged out 10 hits and kept pressure on Cartersville (17-4, 14-3).
"We had baserunners every inning, and though we never got the huge hit, we had a lot of big hits," said Tucker, whose team had at least two runners each inning and left 12 on base. "The at-bats tonight were the best I've seen all year. We were very patient, but when the ball was in the zone we were aggressive.
"I've been on them about their focus the past week or so, but you could feel it when we got on the bus tonight - it was all business."
That approach started right away as the Tigers (18-4, 15-2) scratched out a run in the first inning. A two-out Cartersville error - one of an uncharacteristic four on the night - kept the inning alive, and Adam Weldon made it hurt with an RBI single. Ringgold added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings on RBI hits by Austin Parrish and Slade Dale and a wild pitch, making life easier for Kafka.
"When you give someone like Corey a two or three-run lead, it's lights out," Tucker said. "That's the best I've seen him pitch. He's got a lot on the baseball, and when he's hitting his spots like he did inside tonight, he's tough to beat."
Kafka's game plan was to quickly establish the inside part of the plate. He even hit two batters, and the 'Canes never got comfortable. They managed to get runners past first base only twice.
Kafka's toughest spot came in the sixth when two singles had runners on second and first with one out. He escaped by getting cleanup hitter Jo Jo Underwood to ground into a slick 6-4-3 double play.
"I knew I had to get ahead early, because they're a good fastball-hitting team," Kafka said. "When you've got a big crowd like they have here, they will never stop coming after you. We had to keep them off their feet and go about our business. This is a huge win. We're No. 1, but we can't take anybody for granted right now. It's the first time in a long time we've been in this spot and it feels good."
Ringgold, which has swept second-place Cartersville, would have to lose two of its final three games to lose the region title. The Tigers, though, defeated their final three opponents by a combined score of 42-6 earlier this season.
Parrish, Andy Mochabee and Wright Hackett had two hits each for the winners. Zack Ross had two hits for Cartersville, which was playing without injured slugger Michael Goss.