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High-profile pitching featured in area baseball quarterfinals

Gainesville, Buford look to the mound for semifinal bid

POSTED: May 12, 2014 10:57 p.m.

Preparing for a late-round playoff series requires a little creativity on a coach's part.

With five days before the second round sweep of Sequoyah and the best-of-three quarterfinal series today against Starr’s Mill, Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp called for an intrasquad scrimmage last Friday to work out the kinks and give his pitchers some time on the bump to prepare for their third straight season in the third round of the postseason.

So far, the Red Elephants’ pitching staff has fared well in the postseason, but it’s never a good idea to let arms get too cold with a talented Starr’s Mill coming to Ivey-Watson Field for the Class AAAAA quarterfinal round today.

“Everyone was sharp for us when we were out there scrimmaging,” said Kemp, who said senior Michael Gettys will throw Game 1 at 4 p.m. today.

Caleb Whitenton and Sims Griffith have also thrown during the postseason for the Red Elephants, and could be called on to throw the second game, or in Game 3, if needed on Wednesday.

Having days off between series, such as Gainesville’s case, has plenty of advantages. Two-game sweeps allows for an extra day off between each series and gives more time for wary players to heal injuries, bumps and bruises that have accumulated during a long season. One such case, according to Kemp, was Griffith who was banged up after his seven-hit, second-round performance against Sequoyah.

“That many days off can be tough on them, but some of the guys needed some rest to get ready,” Kemp added.

Every team left standing this time of year, generally, is a state power on a yearly basis. Today’s doubleheader opponent, the Panthers, have played in the Elite 8 in five of the last 11 seasons, including a matchup in the state semifinals last season against Pope. Starr’s Mill has one of the most talented pitching duos around with lefties Ryan Avidano (8-2), a senior University of Georgia signee, and junior Adam Goodman, who is pledged to Georgia already.

The Panthers have been pushed to three games in both of their playoff series, including a Game 3 win against Harris County 10-2 last Thursday.

In Class AAA, No. 2 Buford (27-2) takes on top-ranked Pike County (25-3) at Gerald McQuaig Field starting with a doubleheader at 4:30 today. The Wolves are riding a pitching staff anchored by junior Josh Higginbotham, who is 7-0 and verbally pledged to Clemson University.

The Wolves have two other undefeated starters, including Connor Bennett (6-0) and Kevin Coulter (9-0). The Wolves are in the state quarterfinals for the third time since winning a Class AA state title in 2011. For Buford coach Tony Wolfe, part of the challenge has been giving his pitchers enough innings in the postseason to have everyone fresh to take the mound when needed.

“We have three good starters and have confidence in all three of them to get the job done,” said Wolfe, who is coaching against Pike County for the fourth time in postseason play since 2007.

Joey Bart (.512 avg., 48 RBI) and Austin Upshaw (.488 avg., 45 RBIs) are Buford’s leaders at the plate.

Pike County is paced pitching by right-hander Andy Marshall with a 6-1 mark and 2.50 ERA. The Pirates were stretched to three games, before eliminating Southeast Bulloch with a 5-2 win in the second round last week.


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