An outstanding season for the senior-heavy Heritage Generals came to an abrupt end as the six-time state champion Cartersville Hurricanes, loaded with several Division I commitments, sent the Generals back to Boynton with sweep of their Class 4A state semifinal series, 6-5 and 10-2.
Cartersville 6, Heritage 5
The Generals drew first blood in the top of the first inning against Cartersville starter and future Auburn Tiger Mason Barnett. Luke Grant delivered a one-out single, followed by a walk to Jonathan Hickman. Cole Wilcox doubled to bring in Grant and Josh Gibson plated the second run with a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
However, the Canes came right back with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Wilcox, getting the start for Heritage, gave up a two-out walk before a two-run homer by cleanup hitter Jake Gooch tied the score. Devin Warner followed with a double and Jordan Wilkie gave his team lead with an RBI-single.
Both teams would have chances to score in the next two innings before Heritage broke through again in the top of the fourth. Gibson delivered a leadoff single, but was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice off the bat of Brody Campbell. But Nolan Letzgus came through with a clutch, two-out RBI-triple to score Campbell from first and tie the game, 3-3.
Once again, though, Cartersville would answer. South Alabama-bound Preston Welchel led off with a single and moved to third on a single by Anthony Seigler. Wilcox would get a pop-up on the infield and a strikeout for out number two, but Welchel would sprint home on a passed ball to tie the score once again.
The Generals would regain the lead in the top of the sixth. Wilcox singled and Gibson drew a walk before Campbell hit into a fielder's choice. Gibson was out at second but runners were left on the corners for Blake Bryan, who layed down a bunt back. However, Gage Morris, who entered the game to pitch in the fifth inning for the Canes, threw wildly to first and two runs would score on the error. But a ground ball and an infield pop-up would end the inning without further damage.
Cartersville, however, would find a way to respond.
Welchel drew a one-out walk and came home on a double by Seigler, the Auburn commit and potential high-round draft pick. Seigler would scamper home one batter later on an RBI-double by Josh Davis to give the Canes the lead for good.
Heritage would see Hickman draw a two-out walk in the top of the seventh, but he would get no further as the Canes took the opener.
Seigler got the win in relief, striking out two in his one inning of work. Wilcox took the loss, giving up six runs - five earned - on eight hits and three walks in six innings. He finished with five strikeouts. Wilcox was also the only General with two hits as Heritage ended the game with a total of five.
Cartersville 10, Heritage 2
In the nightcap, the Generals once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, this time in the bottom of the first inning against Cartersville starter Cohen Wilbanks. Lance Dockery led off with a single and Hickman followed with a double before Wilcox lined an RBI-single. Gibson followed with an RBI on a fielder's choice.
But the Canes would use the long ball in the top of the third inning to tie the score. Seigler delivered a solo shot to left field off Heritage starter Tripp Church and Davis would go back-to-back to tie the game.
That would be all the scoring until the top of the sixth when the Canes begin to bust it open.
Seigler was walked to start the inning and was bunted over to second on a sacrifice before Barnett drove him in with an RBI-single. Gooch, a Georgia Tech commitment, followed up with a run-scoring triple and Warner, also on his way to Auburn, doubled to bring in Gooch.
The fourth run of the inning would trot home on an error before J.P. Martin polished off the inning with another run-scoring single.
Cartersville put up three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh for good measure. Wilkie, a Lipscomb commitment, delivered a two-out, two-run double and Martin would drive him in with another RBI-single.
Seigler had three of the 10 hits for Cartersville, while Dockery was 3-for-4 for Heritage.
Wilbanks gave up six hits and a walk in six innings to get the win for the Canes. Both runs he allowed were earned and he finished with eight strikeouts.
Church was pulled after 5.1 innings. He struck out nine and walked just one, but allowed five earned runs on five hits. Justin Morris threw the last 1.2 innings for the Generals. He gave up four earned runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Cartersville will advance to the Class 4A state championship series next week at State Mutual Stadium in Rome. The Canes will be looking for their seventh all-time state baseball title, but their first in Class 4A. They will face Region 8 champion Jefferson in the finals. The Dragons upset Region 7 champion Blessed Trinity, 10-7 and 2-0, to advance.
Heritage capped an outstanding 29-8 season.