Etowah 5, Woodstock 4 (11 innings)
It took four extra innings and several close calls on both sides but Etowah’s two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning made the difference at State Mutual Stadium in Rome Wednesday night
The win marks the first baseball championship for Etowah, who won the first game 4-1 of a best-of-three series, as well as the first for a Cherokee County school since 1948 when Canton took the crown.
The scoring began in the second inning with a three-run home run by Etowah’s Andrew Keene. Woodstock answered in the fourth inning with a base-clearing triple by Justin Bailey to tie the game. Neither team scored for the next seven innings though both teams had their chances.
The bottom of the seventh inning set up perfectly for Etowah. The Eagles started with a single by Chris Keever and then a sacrifice bunt pushed Shaw, the courtesy runner, in scoring position at second base. Nick Bartosz then hit a chop to the shortstop which advanced Shaw to third. Woodstock walked Drew Waters, loading the bases with one out. Woodstock pitcher Jared Staples then struck out Keene swinging and caught Jackson Sisk looking, snatching the possible regulation win away from the Eagles.
Staples finished the game after 8 2/3 innings with 13 strikeouts, allowed three earned runs on 11 hits. He only walked two and was relieved by sophomore Josiah Seigel.
In the top of the eighth, it was Woodstock’s turn. Senior Jason Woszczynski singled to left field and then Spencer Keefe laid down a perfect bunt. Etowah second-baseman Bartosz was late covering first base, leaving runners at first and second. Caleb Bartolero laid down another successful bunt, which advanced courtesy runner Hunter McNabb to third, and an error allowed Bartolero to get to first, loading the bases with no outs. Grant Jacobs then grounded into a double play which began at home plate, leaving runners at second and third with two outs. Justin Bailey battled deep into the count but was caught looking by junior Nick Torres to retire the inning.
In the top of the 11th inning, a Liam Byrne RBI single gave Woodstock a one-run lead and it looked as if a Game 3 was inevitable.
But as many champions do, Etowah found the answers. Senior Drew Waters drove Bartosz home on a ball which bounced awkwardly off of the right-field fence, giving Waters a triple. Keene and Sisk were walked, loading the bases again for Etowah, this time with no outs. Weston Campbell was next up and hit a low chop towards second base, which led to a force out at home. Brandon Marcus then came to the plate and, on the first pitch, tried to bunt that barely made it to the mound and led to another force at home.
Junior Nico Cho was next to face Seigel and hit a low line drive which was scooped up at second but the throw to first was bobbled and Etowah's game-winning run had crossed home play just after 11 p.m.
Etowah 4, Woodstock 1
Etowah took a step towards its first baseball title by winning Game 1 in the series.
The Eagles got the action started in the first inning with a double by junior Andrew Keene. Jackson Sisk brought him home with an RBI single. Both teams struggled to find any offensive rhythm until the fifth inning when Etowah pushed the lead to 3-0.
In the fifth, the Eagles got runners into scoring position off a Nico Cho sacrifice bunt, which put Brandon Marcus on second base. Woodstock pitcher Brant Hurter bobbled the bunt and failed to make the play at second and was forced to throw to first for the out.
Chris Keever was up next and hit a single to right field to get runners at the corners. Connor Bowen took advantage with another bunt to get the runner home. Hurter tried to get the ball to the catcher but it skipped low off the dirt, leading to an error and a run.
In the bottom of the fifth, Woodstock answered offensively with an RBI single by Nolan Tressler that squeaked past the first baseman to make it a 3-1.
However, Etowah’s Drew Waters brought another run home in the seventh-inning with a RBI single to right field after a balk was called on Hurter, which put a runner at third base.
Etowah finished with seven hits and one error, Woodstock had five hits and two errors.