RINGGOLD, Ga. - Saturday's Region 7-AAA baseball showdown at Heritage High School was far from decided after the first inning, but that initial frame more than set the tone for an 8-2 Cartersville win.
The Purple Hurricanes (10-1, 6-0), making their second trip to Heritage in three days after Thursday night's game was postponed three batters into it, manufactured a run in the first inning for a quick lead they never relinquished. And the Generals (7-2, 3-2) did not answer the early run when they had the chance.
"You can't go toe to toe with somebody that's sitting at the top of the region like they are and not cash in on your opportunities," Heritage coach Eric Beagles said after a runner was picked off at second and the Generals left the bases loaded. "When you don't, it seems to always come back and haunt you. We needed everything we could get today, and we didn't get a whole lot."
Cartersville leadoff hitter Zach Ross singled, stole second and advanced on two groundouts for the 1-0 lead. Heritage had 'Canes ace Kendall Hawkins on the ropes, but the Kennesaw State signee escaped as he struck out opposing pitcher Austin Morris with the bases loaded. He had picked off leadoff man Lee Gibson with no one out.
"I think it made a big difference, especially on the road," Cartersville coach Stuart Chester said. "We, of course, like to score first, and we like it to be in the first inning, so we do whatever we can to do that. The pick at second base was also a momentum changer."
The 'Canes added two runs in the third, again ignited by Ross's leadoff single. Connor Justus walked and the two moved up on a wild pitch. Michael Goss's single scored Ross, and Justus came home on Asa Williams' deep sacrifice fly.
After Heritage's Hunter White made it 3-1 with a fourth-inning home run, Cartersville made it 5-1 in the fifth on Jo Jo Underwood's two-out, two-run single against Generals reliever Jake Sampson.
"Pitching's been our strong suit all year, but we pitched behind a lot today," Beagles said. "You can't flirt with that with a team that can hit like they can. We've got to regroup in a hurry because we've got a lot of big games coming this week. That's a well-coached team that took advantage of the opportunities we gave them."
Hawkins (4-1) allowed an unearned run in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh to finish with a four-hitter and seven strikeouts.