A video camera in the dugout will cost defending champion Cartersville its head coach for today’s decisive Game 3 of a Class AAA state semifinal at Buford.
Buford defeated the Purple Hurricanes 4-0 in Game 1, behind a big home run from Patrick Burnette and a complete-game shutout from ace Jake Higginbotham. Cartersville responded in Game 2, knocking off the host Wolves 7-2 to force today’s Game 3, which will start at 5:55 p.m. Cartersville won a coin flip and will be the home team for Game 3.
Cartersville coach Stuart Chester will not be allowed in the stadium, though. He was ejected in the fourth inning of Game 2, when the first-base umpire noticed a student manager videoing the game from inside the Cartersville dugout. According to a GHSA official on the scene, videoing from inside the dugout is a violation of the GHSA rules. Both schools’ athletic directors were called onto the field, and after a lengthy discussion, Chester was ejected, left the field and headed to the parking lot. He returned to the field after Game 2 was complete.
“At this point in time, in a game this big, just unbelievable,” said an emotional Chester. “That means I have to sit out two games. If we win tomorrow and advance, I have to sit out the first game of the state championship.”
Asked where he’ll watch Game 3, Chester joked, “Maybe out there in one of those trees (beyond the outfield fence).”
Cartersville athletic director Darrell Demastus said a student manager has been videoing games from the dugout all season with no issues. Buford coach Tony Wolfe said he’s never been involved in a game where the video rule was enforced and admitted that he didn’t realize that an ejection was involved.
“Coach Chester is a good friend and a great coach,” said Wolfe. “I know his kids want him to be on the field with them, and he wants to be on the field. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen that way and caught me totally by surprise when they ejected him.”
The winner of today’s game will advance to face the Blessed Trinity-Hart County winner in the state championship series.
Wolfe said Kevin Coulter will get the start in Game 3. Coulter was the winning pitcher for Buford in the third game of its quarterfinal win over Pike County.
“He’s had his proper rest and already pitched in a Game 3,” said Wolfe. “We feel like he’ll be ready to go and give us a great outing.”
Chester said he would decide between two or three pitchers, but would not name his starter.
GAME 1, BUFORD 4, CARTERSVILLE 0: Higginbotham improved to 9-0, with a complete-game two-hitter. He got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Riley Richards and getting David Darnell to ground out to second base. He finished with 10 strikeouts in another dominant performance.
Burnette supplied the offense, turning on an inside pitch from Hunter Osborn in the second inning for a three-run blast. Jake Mayo had an RBI single in the inning that plated Nick Wilhite, who got the rally going with a one-out double.
GAME 2, CARTERSVILLE 7, BUFORD 2: Cartersville’s Garrett Rutledge went the distance, allowing only two runs on five hits.
The Purple Hurricane scored five times in the second inning, with the big blast a three-run homer from Brent Arnold off of Buford starter Connor Bennett. All five runs were scored with two outs.
Buford answered in the third inning on Joey Bart’s two-run home that brought home Austin Wilhite, who led off the inning with an infield single. But that was all the Wolves could muster off of Rutledge.
Bennett surrendered six runs on eight hits, before being relieved by Griffin Jolliff in the fifth.
Cartersville tacked on an insurance run in the sixth, with Mark Quattlebaum scoring on a wild pitch from Jolliff.