Disappointed by the outcome of the second game of the series against Dunwoody, Gainesville High baseball coach Jeremy Kemp delivered a simple message to his team: Hit the ball the other way and score as often you can.
The Red Elephants heeded his advice and scored in every inning but two en route to a 13-2 win in Game 3 on Thursday at Ivey-Watson Field.
“We had fun today,” said Kemp, whose team will visit Thomson on Tuesday in the Class AAA quarterfinals. “We were really disappointed after the second game because we outhit Dunwoody but couldn’t get the big hits when we needed them. That’s very uncharacteristic of us.”
Gainesville (28-3) certainly got plenty of big hits Thursday, especially off the bat of Will Maddox, who went 4-for-5 with three doubles, an RBI and four runs scored.
“I just wanted to see the ball, react and drive it,” Maddox said. “I was just trying to go the other way.”
Anyone could have guessed that, as the lefty hit all three of his doubles to the opposite field.
“He’s a gamer,” Kemp said of Maddox. “He’s been huge for us all year.”
So too has Stephen Mason, who started Game 3 and held Dunwoody (21-9) to just two runs on four hits.
“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” said Mason, who also delivered an RBI double in the sixth to cap a six-run inning and give Gainesville an 11-run lead. “I had faith in the guys and I knew we’d come out with a win.”
That was evident in the top of the first inning when Gainesville scored two runs on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Griffith and on a throwing error from Dunwoody’s catcher who was trying to catch K.J. McAllister stealing third base.
Despite surrendering a run in the home half of the inning, those two runs were all Mason needed.
Using a variety of pitches and having a strong command of the strike zone, Mason kept Dunwoody off the bases for the majority of the night.
“I told him that when the game’s on the line, it’s his ball,” Kemp said. “This is the second series in a row that he’s come through.”
It’s also the second series in a row that the offense has delivered in the deciding game. After splitting the first two games with Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in the first round, Gainesville exploded for 12 runs in Game 3; one less than it scored Thursday.
“We knew we had to get up on them early and often,” Maddox said. “We didn’t want to have to come back again.”
Gainesville accomplished that goal by hitting eight doubles, including Maddox’s three, two by McAllister and one each from Griffith, Mason and Michael Lorentz.
Griffith and McAllister each finished the game with three RBIs while Lorentz finished with two.
“We did a great job of getting out early and continuing to put runs on the board,” Mason said. “It made it easy for me because all I had to do was throw strikes.”
The big lead also made it easy on Kemp, whose team jokes about how uptight he can be.
“Now that we’re out of this round, he’ll loosen up,” Mason said. “But I’m sure once Tuesday rolls around he’ll be tight again.”