Collier Scott’s level swing on a high fastball with two outs in bottom of the seventh inning Monday gave Gainesville a temporary edge on second place in the Region 8-AAAAAA standings.
It also sent the Red Elephants fans at Ivey-Watson field into an instantaneous celebration — one more commonly saved for the playoffs.
Trailing Dacula by a run and down it its final out, Gainesville’s junior Scott belted a two-run home run over the left-field wall to deliver a 3-2 walk-off win. The victory moved Gainesville (17-6, 7-3) into second place in the region standings, just ahead of Dacula (16-8, 6-4) with two games left to play against each other this week as the regular season nears its end.
On Wednesday, Gainesville can take the season series with Game 2 in Dacula. Gainesville hosts Dacula for the third game of the series Friday at Ivey-Watson Field.
Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp knew Scott was just the guy he wanted at the plate with his player’s penchant for delivering huge in the clutch. It was Scott’s first home run of the season and second of his high school career.
However, he came through with a walk-off hit against North Forsyth in 2016, along with a game-tying hit in a region victory against Flowery Branch when he was a sophomore. Scott also delivered a victory pitching in Game 2 of the Class AAAAA state semifinal series last season against Houston County.
“That’s the story of Collier’s career,” said Kemp. “He steps out huge when we need it.
“He’s always been that guy for us.”
So when Scott got a crack at keeping the game alive after a two-out infield error by the Falcons, Gainesville’s right-handed pitcher, who threw a complete game, deposited the ball over the left-field wall for the victory.
Scott said he wasn’t thinking about being the hero. He just wanted to get on base to keep the rally alive after Dacula’s shortstop tracked a fly ball over second base and caused enough confusion about who would make the play that the ball landed right on the front of the outfield grass.
“I was just trying to pass it on to the next guy,” said Scott, who threw seven strong innings with seven strikeouts on the mound for Gainesville.
The fly ball that was dropped by Dacula’s infielder put Cameron Wilson on first base and brought home Banks Griffith from second base, who got the rally started with a sharply hit, two-out single up the middle.
When Scott belted the walk-off homer, he was greeted at the plate by his entire Gainesville teammates, who all rushed out to home plate after it was clear the ball was going to clear the fence.
Gainesville struggled much of the night hitting Dacula senior pitcher Tyler Thrasher, who was working the outside portion of the plate well with his curveball. The Red Elephants’ first hit was Dalton Kyle’s third-inning double, but he was tagged out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple.
Griffith had his first hit of the game with a two-out single in the third.
Gainesville also had scoring opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings but left a pair of runners on base both times. In the fifth inning, Griffith walked to give the Red Elephants runners at the corners before the final out was made by the Falcons. Then in the sixth inning, Scott had a lead-off single and A.J. Smallwood reached with an infield hit.
With Scott at third base and two outs, Smallwood was able to steal second base without drawing a throw from the catcher.
Gainesville remained scoreless when its next hitter flew out to straightaway center field.
Dacula’s only player with a multi-hit game was Henry Helfrich, who had two singles — one scoring a run — from the No. 9 spot in the order. Jake McCaffrey had a two-out double in the fifth inning and scored on Helfrich’s hit.