Carthage Aims to Eliminate Second District 17-3A Foe in Regional Quarterfinal Series vs. China Spring
East Texas baseball fans can typically rely on Carthage pitching well and playing good defense. That hasn't changed in 2013.
But the Bulldogs, who started the season sporadic at the plate, have enjoyed a recent offensive surge, including a big outburst in Saturday's Games 2 and 3 in a comeback series win against top 10-ranked West this past weekend.
That series victory puts Carthage in the Class 3A Region III quarterfinal round against another District 17-3A opponent, China Spring. Game 1 is 7 p.m. Friday, followed by Game 2 at 2 p.m. Saturday (Game 3 after if necessary). Mesquite's Tillery Field hosts the entire series.
West, which entered last weekend's Region III area playoff series ranked No. 6 by Txhighschoolbaseball.com, shut out No. 9 Carthage 1-0 in Game 1, but the Bulldogs, who scored 30 runs in 10 innings in a first-round sweep of Groesbeck, dropped eight runs apiece in Games 2 and 3 to win the series with 8-0 and 8-2 victories.
"Right now we're hitting better than anytime by far that I've been here," said Carthage coach Jim Goldman, who is in his fifth season with the Bulldogs. "Kolby Blissett's hit all year. Blake Bogenschutz has raised his average probably 230 points in the last month and a half. The bottom of our lineup has really started to hit. Sammy Chhor has come on like gangbusters."
Six Bulldogs have driven in at least 20 runs, led by JayDon Day's four home runs and 28 RBIs. Blissett's .426 average is tops on the team, but few Carthage players are as hot as Bogenschutz, who's hitting .429 with two homers and 17 RBIs in the Bulldogs' last 14 games, a span that has seen Carthage go 12-2. Bogenschutz is batting .300 with three homers and 20 RBIs for the season.
Carthage has won 19 of its last 22 games after an 8-4 start. While the improved offense has helped, the usually reliable pitching has been there as well.
Day is 8-4 with a 1.64 earned run average, 71 strikeouts, and 12 walks in 72 2/3 innings. William Rittenberry has been almost unhittable, going 8-1 with a 0.67 ERA, 64 strikeouts, 10 walks, and only 27 hits in 52 2/3 innings.
"His stuff is electric. It really is. He's probably got better stuff than anybody I've ever coached," Goldman said of Rittenberry. "JayDon's our horse and JayDon battles, but going strictly stuff, William is tremendous. I thought we kinda overabused JayDon last season in the middle of the year, so we got JayDon some rest (this year) and we did the same with William and he's come back and he's been dominant."
Goldman issued a warning about China Spring, which enters this weekend's series with a 26-9 record and No. 13 ranking from Txhighschoolbaseball.com.
Don't let the Cougars' 6-4 district record and third-place finish fool you.
"They hit the ball 1 through 9. They have really, really good hitters. I thought Hallsville (earlier this season) was one of the best hitting teams I've seen since I've been here, and Diboll hits the ball 1 through 9. So does China Spring," Goldman said. "We don't rely that much on strikeouts, but I think our strikeout totals with our pitchers are gonna go down and we're gonna have to play better defense.
"They'll play some small ball. They like to bunt and run some people. They're a quality team. We're gonna have to really play well to advance. Whoever pitches and plays the best defense will do that."
Region III Quarterfinal
No. 9 Carthage Bulldogs (27-7)
No. 13 China Spring Cougars (26-9)
Series -- Tillery Field, Mesquite
- Game 1: 7 p.m. Friday (May 17)
- Game 2: 2 p.m. Saturday (May 18)
- Game 3: follows Game 2 if necessary
How they got here
- Bi-district: def. Groesbeck 2-0 in series (W 13-1, W 17-0)
- Area: def. West 2-1 in series (L 1-0, W 8-0, W 8-2)
- Area: def. Rusk 2-1 in series (L 5-4, W 15-8, W 9-6)
Did you know?
- After an 8-4 start, Carthage has won 19 of 22 games.
- After a 17-3 start, China Spring has lost 6 of 15 games.
- Each team has played West. China Spring lost twice to West in district (15-3, 2-0), while Carthage beat West in last weekend's second-round series.
- Carthage has six players with 20 or more RBIs.
- Carthage's JayDon Day is batting .326 with four home runs and 28 RBIs, leading the Bulldogs in the latter two categories. Day is tied with William Rittenberry for the team lead in pitching wins (8) and trails only Rittenberry (0.67 ERA) with a 1.64 ERA.
- Winner faces Silsbee or Orangefield in a 3A Region III semifinal.