Caleb Whitenton grinned as he watched his Gainesville teammates run sprints across Ivey-Watson Field following Wednesday’s 10-0 shutout over Heritage High.
It wasn’t his one-hitter, or his solo home run in the fourth that he appreciated the most.
“It might be getting out of the running,” he joked, with a broad smile.
Whitenton threw 39 strikes on 56 pitches, collected six strikeouts and allowed only one hit to lead the Red Elephants (7-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA) to a home region win and a season sweep of the Patriots (5-3, 0-2).
The Red Elephants trounced the Patriots 14-2 on Monday in Conyers.
Four different Gainesville batters hit homers Wednesday, including three in the fourth, to earn the team’s third shutout of the year. Coach Jeremy Kemp’s offense touched up Heritage’s Matt Studdard and Nick Evans for 15 combined hits and three walks. Evans came on for Studdard in the third, and managed two of Heritage’s three strikeouts.
But the Red Elephants capitalized on three Heritage errors in the bottom of the second to score six runs, effectively sealing the series.
“It’s a sign of this team growing up,” Kemp said. “You can’t make mistakes against good teams, and we want to make people pay when they make mistakes against us.”
The Gainesville defense retired Heritage’s batters in order in each inning except the third, when Justin Roberson delivered the Patriots’ lone hit.
Heritage’s defense wasn’t much better. Gettys hit the game’s opening dinger on his third pitch in the second inning. Banks Griffith (3 for 3, 2 RBIs) brought in Brandon Sewell and Anthony Carrera after the Heritage center fielder couldn’t trap a fly to center field.
Mikey Gonzalez benefited from an error in far right when his fly ball wasn’t tracked down before Whitenton’s (2-for-3, HR) pop-up to shallow center dropped from Israel Zackery’s glove. By then, two more runs had scored to give Gainesville a 6-0 advantage.
“It’s always good to take advantage of the chances that we’re given,” said Whitenton.
Whitenton, a senior, spent his offseason working on his curve ball with assistant coach Adam Miller in an effort to improve his array of pitches. That training has paid off, with the righty earning the No. 2 spot in Gainesville’s rotation behind Gettys (1-for-2, HR).
Whitenton fanned two consecutive hitters in both the first and fifth innings, and showed good command of his breaking ball and sliders. Miller said he has high hopes for his senior heading into a long region stretch. The Red Elephants (No. 12 in Class AAAAA) will take on Clarke Central in Athens on Friday at 5:55 p.m.
“You have to have some of the off-speed stuff,” Miller said. “It’s how you become better, because you can’t just blow it by people all the time.”
Michael Curry and Whitenton opened the fourth with consecutive solo homers, and Anthony Carrera hit one of his own before Heritage put together its first out.
The Patriots will return home to face Cedar Shoals, which lost 15-0 to Flowery Branch on Wednesday.
If Whitenton can keep improving his curve, Miller said Gainesville will be looking at a strong rotation. Gonzalez, who has seen time at third base and shortstop, is also expected to be a fixture in the rotation.
“We have a really good chance to be good this year,” said Whitenton. “Our team chemistry is really clicking.”