Half of the Bartow County high school baseball teams reached the postseason in 2022, and the other half challenged for playoff berths in an overall solid year for the local programs.
Cartersville held the title of best Bartow team and nearly captured the Class 5A state championship in the process, falling in a decisive Game 3 to Loganville in the finals at the Rome Braves stadium. The Canes (32-8) won four home playoff series, dropping just one of nine games during the run, before coming up short in the neutral-site championship. During the regular season, head coach Kyle Tucker, who has guided the program to runner-up finishes twice in his five years, registered his 100th career victory.
Woodland landed the No. 4 seed in Region 7-5A — behind champions Cartersville, runner-up Blessed Trinity and third-seeded Calhoun — and the Wildcats’ tough schedule kept them from having any fear in their first-round matchup with St. Pius X. The teams played out three low-scoring games, with the Golden Lions taking two out of three to eliminate the Wildcats (15-18) and end the tenure of head coach Matt Montgomery, who is taking the same position at Calhoun.
Adairsville battled every team that stepped on the field opposite the Tigers. Unfortunately for the locals, just under half of those games fell the wrong way, as Adairsville (11-14) missed out on the playoffs. A strong core of rising seniors and several quality returning pitchers should keep the Tigers in the postseason hunt next spring.
Matt Thompson’s first season leading his alma mater didn’t go exactly how he would have wanted, as Cass finished fifth in the region and missed out on a chance to return to the state playoffs. The Colonels (5-25) were better than their record indicates and steadily improved throughout the season, particularly on the mound.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Caden Carroll, Cartersville junior
For the second straight season, a Cartersville right-hander lands top honors, as Carroll follows in the footsteps of Micah Earwood. Despite starting Game 2 of most Canes series, including each playoff set, Carroll pitched like an ace. He finished the season with a 12-0 record in 14 starts. Carroll proved to be at his best down the stretch, winning each of his five postseason starts. Facing Loganville in the second game of the state championship series, Carroll threw a complete-game shutout — the sixth time he went the distance in 2022. Against some of the top teams in the state, he posted a phenomenal overall line, including a 1.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and .203 batting average against. Carroll struck out 109 batters across 71 2/3 frames for a rate of 10.65 strikeouts per seven innings.
HITTER OF THE YEAR
Curt Bonner, Cartersville senior
Some would argue Bonner should have received this honor last season, but either way, he proved to be the best of an extremely talented crop of hitters in the county. Hitting leadoff while alternating between catcher and designated hitter, Bonner ranked among Cartersville’s leaders in most statistical categories. He led the team in total bases (55), doubles (13) and runs scored (41, including those scored by his courtesy runners). Bonner registered a robust .333/.459/.470 triple-slash line, finishing third, first and second, respectively, in those categories among Canes regulars. The LaGrange College signee showcased his impeccable defense behind the plate, committing just one error and throwing out 35% of attempted base-stealers.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Phillip Schiltz, Cartersville junior
After beginning the season as a starter and coming off an impressive sophomore season in that role, Schiltz transitioned into a remarkable reliever in the mold of last year’s Pitcher of the Year Davis Williams. Overall, Schiltz made 18 appearances, spanning 40 2/3 innings. A two-footed punter for the Cartersville football team, the right-handed hurler posted a 4-0 record and registered six saves. Schiltz finished with a 2.24 ERA, which was actually at 1.62 entering the state finals, and 1.33 WHIP. He racked up 55 strikeouts against 14 walks. Several returning players could challenge Schiltz for this award next season, including teammate Ryan Johnson, Adairsville’s Jack Whitley, Cass’ Carson Hill and Woodland’s Rowan Billings.
Rowan Billings, Woodland sophomore — Billings came on strong down the stretch, helping the Wildcats qualify for the postseason. Overall, the right-hander went 4-1, while contributing a microscopic ERA (0.56) and WHIP (0.92). He totaled 25 innings on the mound spread across eight appearances (five starts). Billings struck out exactly one batter per inning and only issued a total of four walks on the year.
Chase Carson, Woodland junior — Woodland’s table setter compiled a .321 batting average, .376 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage. Carson led the Wildcats with 34 hits — 11 of which went for extra bases, including eight doubles, two triples and three home runs. The team’s regular center fielder, Carson wound up scoring 30 runs and driving in 18. He also went 21-for-23 on stolen base attempts.
Caleb Daniel, Cartersville sophomore — Possessing one of the most picturesque left-handed swings one could ever hope to see at the high school level, Daniel led the state runner-up with a .360 batting average. He recorded a team-high 41 hits, scored 28 runs, drove in 25 runs, and walked (13) more times than he struck out (12). After not running much during the regular season, he wound up 12 of 13 on steal attempts.
Tyler Driggers, Adairsville junior — Driggers launched five home runs en route to a .306 batting average and .528 slugging percentage. The Adairsville outfielder racked up a team-high 22 RBIs, while scoring 15 runs and stealing 10 bases. Driggers put together arguably the best individual offensive performance of the season in the county, posting two homers and seven RBIs in a 16-3 win over North Murray.
Elliott Eastin, Cartersville senior — One of the best defensive players in the area, Eastin patrolled center field with a sense of ease. Slotted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order — between Bonner and Daniel — the left-handed hitter posted 37 hits and drew 24 walks for a .325 AVG and .455 OBP. Eastin went a perfect 11 for 11 when stealing a base. He scored 31 runs and drove in 21 to land on the all-county team.
Carson Hill, Cass junior — Hill is a solid defensive catcher, but the Colonels wound up being better off with him on the mound. During region play, the right-hander really got going, leading Cass to its best win of the season — a 2-0 victory at Calhoun. Overall, Hill registered a 3-4 record with a 3.02 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He struck out 49 batters in 44 innings. Offensively, Hill cranked two homers and drove in 10 runs.
Ryan Johnson, Cartersville sophomore — Johnson is a future superlative winner if ever there was one. The tall right-hander often had to work out of early trouble, but when he got rolling, few batters stood a chance. The Canes’ Game 1 starter, Johnson went 6-3 in 15 appearances, spanning 67 1/3 innings). The University of Georgia commit finished with a 3.01 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and .222 batting average against.
Aidan Larkin, Cass sophomore — Hitting leadoff for the Colonels, Larkin boasted easily the best offensive campaign on the team. The star shortstop slashed .317/.434/.573, giving Larkin an OPS just north of 1.000. Fourteen of Larkin’s 26 hits went for extra bases, including nine doubles, three triples and two homers. The right-handed hitter paced Cass with 18 runs scored and 13 RBIs, while finishing 7-for-8 on steal attempts.
Jakiyon Porter, Woodland junior — Porter took a big step forward this year. Following an impressive football season at linebacker, the Woodland third baseman developed into one of the most consistent hitters in the county. Porter scored 21 runs and drove in 15. He led the Wildcats with a .369 batting average, while finishing second on the team in on-base percentage (.466) and third in slugging (.512).
Ayden Ray, Woodland sophomore — Boasting the highest OPS among Woodland regulars, Ray’s powerful left-handed swing registered a .345/.482/.563 triple-slash line. Ray posted nearly as many doubles (5) as home runs (4), while totaling 32 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Ray drew 21 walks against 13 strikeouts. The right-hander pitched his best game of the season in Game 3 of Woodland’s first-round playoff series.
Chris Roper, Adairsville junior — The Tigers second baseman paced his father’s team in several offensive categories, including hits (23), runs (19) and stolen bases (10). Roper also led Adairsville in fielding percentage and tied for the team lead in doubles, with seven. The three-sport standout, who earned DTN Athlete of the Year in football last fall, posted a .303 batting average and recorded 10 RBIs.
Drew Rothschild, Cartersville senior — The slugging first baseman slashed .283/.419/.481 with 14 of his 30 hits going for extra bases, including 10 doubles and three home runs. Playing in 39 games (the most appearances on the team), Rothschild scored 30 runs and drove in 46 to lead the county. An instinctual base-runner, Rothschild went 8-for-8 on steals and once scored from second on a passed ball.
Evan Sanders, Adairsville junior — Sanders excelled on the mound and at the plate for the Tigers. He hit .297 with seven doubles, tying Roper for the team lead, and one homer among his 22 knocks. Sanders totaled 19 RBIs, 13 runs and five stolen bases. On the mound, Sanders finished with a 2-1 record, while registering a 2.90 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. The standout wide receiver tossed 20 innings with 19 strikeouts.
Brenden Carroll, Adairsville senior; Harrison Childers, Cartersville junior; Jacob Gravett, Woodland senior; Bentley Markley, Cass senior; Jack Nelson, Adairsville freshman; Cayden Roberts, Cass sophomore; Hank Smith, Cartersville senior; Connor Stermer, Woodland sophomore; P.J. Weeks, Adairsville sophomore; Jack Whitley, Adairsville junior; and Julian Wright, Woodland junior.