Tournaments : : Story
Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Showdown: Cartersville HS

Jeff Dahn         Todd Gold        
Photo: Perfect Game
2013 Perfect Game High School Showdown event page

Perfect Game High School Showdown Team Previews:

Florida Georgia
Venice Indians Parkview Panthers
Sarasota Sailors Blessed Trinity Titans
Mater Academy Lions
Cartersville Hurricanes
Montverde Academy Eagles Savannah Christian Raiders

Cartersville HurricanesRoster | Schedule

Having won 10 of their first 13 games playing against some of the larger Georgia Class AAAAAA programs around the Atlanta metropolitan area, the Class AAA Cartersville Hurricanes and head coach Stuart Chester are looking to face-off against some out-of-state competition at the end of this week. The trip south isn't going to offer much of a breather.

Cartersville is one of four Georgia high schools that will be in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday through Saturday (April 4-6) for the inaugural Perfect Game High School Showdown. The three-day event pits four of the top high school programs from Georgia against four of their counterparts from Florida. Each of the eight teams will play four games over those three days.

"It's a great opportunity for us as a team to go down and get a little bit better and play some of the competition that we're going to be playing," Chester said late last week. "It may give us a big humbling experience but, again, it's going to give us an opportunity to get better. Anytime you're involved with Perfect Game, it's great for our program and it'll give us a little bit of recognition."

Chester, who served as the head coach of the East Team at the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, has been Cartersville High's head baseball coach since 1998 and his 15-year run at the school is an unqualified success. The Hurricanes advanced to the Georgia state playoffs and won 22 or more games in each of Chester's first 15 seasons, and captured 11 region championships. Most impressively, they won five state titles, including three straight from 2001-03 and two more in a row in 2008-09.

Cartersville won 33 consecutive playoff games between 2001-04 and 63 straight games within its region during a stretch from 2005-10. The Georgia Dugout Club named Cartersville the "Program of the Decade" for the years from 2000-09.

"We've been very fortunate here," Chester said. "Cartersville has always been a school system that backs its athletics and we've been very successful in just about every sport we put out on the field or on the court. We've got a very strong community ... and we've never really wanted for anything ; if we needed it they've found a way to do it for us. It's a tight-knit family atmosphere and we've had some good talent come through here."

The most recent of that "good talent" is former Hurricanes' outfielder Donavan Tate, a 2009 Cartersville graduate. Tate was selected by the San Diego Padres with the third pick in the first-round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft and has spent the last three seasons building his resume in the minor leagues.

This year's Cartersville team is led by senior middle-infielder/right-hander Connor Justus, a Georgia Tech signee. He is the first Hurricane to sign with Georgia Tech during Chester's tenure at the school. Three other Hurricane seniors have signed with smaller Georgia colleges: right-hander Cole Anderson (LaGrange College), catcher/right-hander Ty Fowler (Georgia Highlands) and third-baseman/right-hander JoJo Underwood (West Georgia).

"It's great for our kids to be able to take their talents to the next level, and it opens doors at our program for future players," Chester said. "Anytime we have kids sign somewhere and they go off and represent our school in an honorable fashion, that opens the door for kids in the future to hopefully get that relationship with that college and sign."

High School Team Breakdown: Cartersville High School

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank):

1.  Connor Justus, SS/RHP, 2013, 281
2.  Ty Fowler, C/RHP, 2013, High Follow

Given how high the bar has been set over recent years, this Hurricanes team doesn't pack the same kind of punch that they have in the past. Georgia Tech signee 2013 SS Connor Justus is the top hitter in the lineup, and is a solid hitter, though his calling card is his strong defensive play up the middle.

2013 3B/RHP JoJo Underwood has been the run producer during their recent winning streak, as the 6-foo-1 220 pound West Georgia commit will be counted on, along with 2013 CIF Tripp Jamieson to provide the lineup with some pop. The Hurricanes have been putting up a lot of runs of late, it will be interesting to see if they can continue that trend when they matchup against the pitching staffs from some of the elite teams in Florida.

Not only has he contributed on the mound, 2014 IF/RHP Garrett Rutledge has a chance to wind up being the best pure hitter in the lineup when it's all said and done.

Justus serves as the team's closer and finishes off games started by a committee of different pitchers, including: 2013 RHP Cole Anderson, 2013 C/RHP Ty Fowler, 2014 RHP Hunter Osborn and 2014 IF/RHP Garrett Rutledge.

Without a flamethrower, Cartersville's pitching staff is different from most of the others you'll find in the PG High School Showdown. But as was the case during their early season gauntlet of a schedule that featured several Atlanta area powerhouses, well commanded lower velocity pitching can really throw off the rhythm and timing of hitters who are used to facing higher velocity.

Cartersville has had a very strong tradition in the past decade and they look to be one contenders in Georgia's AAA classification this year. But how they stack up against nationally ranked competition remains to be seen. They gave fellow Georgia representative Parkview a tough game before falling 10-7 early in the season and have been playing even better of late, so don't expect them to roll over for highly touted opponents.
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