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High school baseball: Gainesville rallies past Cambridge to take first-round series in three games
Collier Scott had go-ahead hit for Red Elephants in the top of the seventh inning
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Jared Smith of Gainesville (32) runs to first base on Saturday, April 28, 2018, during game 3 of a Class 6A first-round playoff series against Cambridge High School at Ivey Watson Field in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

Collier Scott’s two-run hit in the seventh inning for Gainesville High erased all of its earlier frustration of trying unsuccessfully to hit with runners on base against Cambridge on Saturday. In the deciding Game 3 of a first-round playoff series, the Red Elephants’ senior third baseman roped a go-ahead single to center field as they rallied from behind in their final at bat to win 8-5 at Ivey-Watson Field. 

“Collier wants to be at the plate in those big situations,” said Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp. 

With the win, Gainesville (22-9) visits No. 3 seed Allatoona in the second round for another best-of-three playoff series, starting with a doubleheader Thursday in Acworth. Game time is still to be determined. 

After Scott came through with the clutch hit, catcher Jared Smith followed with a run-scoring hit. Then Charlie Wall drove a one-out sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field to plate the fourth and final run in the top of the seventh inning. The Red Elephants were playing as the visitor as a result of a coin flip at the end of Friday’s doubleheader that was a split to force Game 3.

Prior to the seventh-inning rally, Gainesville struggled mightily with bringing in runs. The Red Elephants were 0 for 4 hitting with the bases loaded through the first five innings, and 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. 

However, Scott found a way to wipe the slate clean. 

Prior to his go-ahead hit, Scott drove a fly ball on a full count down the right field line that landed less than a foot on the foul side of the white line, close to the 320-foot sign on the wall. Two pitches later, Scott got a fast ball that he was able to drill into the outfield to score Kyle York and Cameron Wilson, who both reached base on one-out walks. 

“Man, Collier squared up and hit that one,” Kemp said. “That was a huge hit.”

Scott said much of his motivation to keep the season going came from falling in a similar Game 3 scenario against Dalton on a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon in the opening round of state in 2017.

Also Gainesville’s No. 1 starter, Scott knew he didn’t want it to end with that same feeling of letting one get away. 

“This team, we just kept fighting,” said Scott, who was purposely crowding the plate to try and draw a walk. 

Kemp said his squad’s battling mentality was a series-long story, leading just three innings over a three-game series. 

“I’m very proud of these guys,” said Kemp. “You got to survive some bad series’ in order to advance in the playoffs, and they made that happen.”

Senior right-hander Noah Bond entered in relief trailing 4-3 in the third inning for the Red Elephants, allowing one run for the remainder of the inning before tossing four shutout frames. The Bears went ahead in the third inning with a towering two-run homer by clean-up hitter Mitch Fleming.

Over the next three innings of work, Bond allowed three hits — all singles — to Cambridge.

When Gainesville was ready to go back on the field with the lead in the bottom of the seventh, Bond said his catcher Jared Smith gave him some reassurance he would get the job done. 

“I realized we had to go back out there once we had the lead,” Bond said. “Jared just looked at me in the dugout, told me to smile and have fun.”

Cambridge put two runners on in the seventh inning before Andrew Spears struck out looking for the final out of the game.

Cale Conley’s lead-off double in the fifth inning was Gainesville’s only extra-base hit. However, Gainesville batters were hit by a pitch twice and drew a free pass on walks 10 times. 

In the first inning, Gainesville started things promising by loading the bases with no outs on a walk by Smith. However, the Red Elephants’ only runs in the inning came when Jackson Kemp drew a bases-loaded walk on four pitches, and Scott came in on a passed ball. 

The Red Elephants also loaded the bases in the fifth inning when Banks Griffith came back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk, but were unable to score. 

Griffith reached base on 4 of 5 plate appearances for Gainesville from the lead-off spot without a hit. 

Second-round opponent Allatoona advanced with a 16-2 and 17-1 sweep against Creekside in the first round Friday in Cobb County.