Fantastic fourth: Spring Garden wins fourth straight county baseball title behind Cam Welsh’s pitching performance

The 2023 Cherokee County Baseball Tournament champions, the Spring Garden Panthers. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CENTRE – For the second time in less than a week, Spring Garden senior pitcher Cam Welsh found himself locked in a pitcher’s duel. On Saturday, it was against Cherokee County High School sophomore Carson Tittle with the Cherokee County Baseball Tournament title on the line.

And once again, Welsh came out on top.

The Berry College signee tossed a two-hitter, giving up an unearned run with four walks and eight strikeouts in the Panthers’ 2-1 victory. The win secured the Panthers’ fourth straight county baseball title.

“That’s what we expect out of him. That’s what he can do on the mound,” Spring Garden second-year coach Cole Murphy said of Welsh. “That’s just an amazing job by him. He hit his spots. He stayed in there. He kept he pitch count down per batter. When they did hit it, he caused ground balls or pop ups that were right where we were at. He just did an amazing job on the mound.”

Tittle was the tough-luck loser after working six innings. He gave up two unearned runs, a walk and struck out nine.

“Carson did a phenomenal job for us,” Cherokee County first-year baseball coach Bret Henderson said. “To me, that was a great high school baseball game. Two guys being bulldogs on the mound, stepping up at the right times. It just didn’t go our way. It was tough.”

Especially with how the game ended for the Warriors (6-6).

With two outs and Connor Wilson on second base following a walk, Luke Young was at the plate for the Warriors. Young took an inside pitch from Welsh, in which young made contact with. The ball appeared to hit Young’s hand, which sent the ball into fair territory. Welsh grabbed it up and tossed to first base for the final out of the game.

The Warriors argued a foul ball should’ve been called, but after a meeting by the two umpires, who then met with both coaches, they ruled Young out.

“When you swing the bat, your hands are part of the ball,” Murphy said. “They said he swung, it hit his hands, and it landed in fair territory. It didn’t hit inside the box or the plate, so it’s a ground ball and the runner is out.”

“It was the correct explanation,” Henderson said. “(The umpires) got together and told us the ball made contact with the hands on the swing, and it was a fair ball, so therefore it was a live ball. They got together and talked to both coaches. I respect that.”

“It’s definitely not the storybook ending that we wanted, but you take it how you can get it,” Welsh said. “We got another one (county title), and a win’s a win.”

The game had its share of bang-bang plays. Spring Garden (3-1) had a runner called out to retire the side after he slid across the plate in the bottom of the first inning. He was originally called safe before the umpires met and changed their ruling, keeping the game scoreless.

The play seemed to fire up the Panthers.

“Anytime there’s a controversial call at home, somebody’s going to end up mad. It just happened to be we were mad this time,” Murphy said. “That’s just part of the game. I just used it to my advantage. I told our players that ought to make them mad, not to get in their heads so much, but to just use that emotion toward the game.”

After Cherokee County took a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the top of the second, Spring Garden responded with a pair of runs to take a 2-1 advantage. Clayton Sadler doubled to left with two outs and two runners on to drive home the first Panther run. Zane Edwards followed by reaching on an error at second to score the second Panther run.

The Warriors threatened to tie the game in the top of the fifth. Wilson walked with one out and made his way around to third. He attempted to score on a wild pitch, but was called out on the play for the third out of the inning.

Cherokee County had another chance in the top of the seventh following walks to Cooper Rodgers and Wilson, but couldn’t bring them home.

“I’m proud of our guys. They played how they needed to play,” Henderson said. “Our guys are going to show up. They’re going to bust their butts, and they’re going to do everything we ask. They do it the right way. We’re young. I think we’re starting five, sometimes six 10th graders. I’m not taking anything away from our seniors. They’re the ones who are really pushing those 10th graders. Our future is going to be OK.

“We have a chance to learn from this experience and build off of it.”

The two teams reached the county title game in contrasting games. Cherokee County blanked Cedar Bluff 10-0, while Spring Garden held off Sand Rock 12-10.

Sand Rock opened the tournament on Saturday with a 14-4 win over Gaylesville.

“We came out pretty hot against Sand Rock, but we just didn’t finish and didn’t take care of business in the later innings,” Welsh said. “That was a point of emphasis in this game: finish, compete for seven innings, and don’t stop. We came out and did that.”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print