CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The Cartersville Hurricanes did something very few baseball teams have done this season against the Heritage Generals. They hit the ball hard off Cole Wilcox, and they did it consistently.
The Hurricanes put runners in scoring position in five of their six at-bats, tagging the Generals' ace —and projected major league first-round draft pick — for six runs on eight hits and two walks.
Heritage was swept in the best-of-three GHSA Class AAAA semifinals Tuesday, losing 6-5 and 10-2 to host Cartersville. The loss ended the prep careers of the Generals' 10 seniors.
"The first thing I told them was that I love them," a teary-eyed Heritage coach Eric Beagles said. "Obviously it hurts, it stings. But there's going to come a point where they're going to be able to think back to all of the fun we had and all they accomplished."
Heritage (31-8) had plenty of chances to seize momentum during the first game, starting with their first at-bat. The Generals put two runs on the board in the top of the first on an RBI single by Wilcox and a sacrifice fly by Josh Gibson.
Cartersville (31-8) had an answer in the bottom half of the inning, however, a theme that would play out throughout the game. After Wilcox retired the first two batters, he walked the next one and gave up a two-run homer to Jake Gooch. Cartersville scored one more time to claim a 3-2 lead.
Twice more during the game Heritage scored to tie or take the lead, but each time Cartersville answered. In the fourth Heritage tied the game on an RBI double by Nolan Letzgus, only to give the lead right back in the bottom half.
In the sixth inning, Heritage scored two on an errant throw to take a 5-4 lead, but the Hurricanes took the lead back for good in their next at-bat.
"You've got to tip your hat to them," Beagles said. "We stress shut-down innings, but every time we scored they answered. If we could've won one of those innings, who knows what would've happened?"
Faced with elimination in game two, Heritage senior hurler Tripp Church was dominant for the first five innings, giving up just two runs on back-to-back homers in the third inning, while striking out nine.
Beagles rolled the dice in the sixth inning with the game tied at 2, deciding to intentionally walk leadoff hitter Anthony Seigler, who is also a projected MLB first-round draft pick. Seigler went a combined 6-for-7 with four runs scored and an RBI in the doubleheader.
The rest of the Hurricanes offense came through, however, as they scored five times that inning and three more in the seventh to pull away.
For Wilcox, the time spent with this group is something he found difficult to put into words.
"It means everything," Wilcox said as he choked back tears. "We've been playing together since we were 10 years old. You knew what you were going to get every time we came to the ballfield — a hundred percent. This has been the best four years of my life, and I don't regret any of it."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.