When Michael Curry wasn’t helping his pitcher’s bid for a no-hitter behind the plate, the junior catcher was busy making sure Gainesville had more than enough run support to work with.
Curry went 3 for 3 with a double and four RBIs on Saturday, and the Red Elephants benefited from five Heritage errors in an 11-1 victory over the Patriots in five innings at Ivey-Watson Field.
Curry continued his strong 2014 campaign by delivering a run-scoring hit in each of the first three innings, leading Gainesville (17-6, 11-2 Region 8-AAAAA) out to a commanding 9-0 advantage.
The Red Elephants’ cleanup hitter said his approach at the plate is all about simplicity and fundamentals.
“Keep it simple, that’s what I live by,” Curry said.
“Just keep it simple and drive the ball. See ball, hit ball.”
The win was the Red Elephants’ sixth straight and it snapped the Patriots’ eight-game winning streak.
Gainesville now sits a half-game ahead of Loganville (16-6, 10-2) atop the region standings and holds a two-game edge over Heritage (17-7, 11-4) in the loss column.
Red Elephants senior right-hander Michael Gettys looked sharp in his first start on the mound in two weeks, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a single to Freddy Bryant. Gettys pitched all five innings, allowing one unearned run, two hits and three walks while striking out nine batters.
“He had just been a little tired, and we just decided to give him a little break before we get to the playoffs,” Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp said of Gettys’ recent absence on the mound.
“He’s not hurt or anything like that. He did good (today); I was proud of him. He got out there and competed and did well.”
Gettys was aided by strong defense behind him.
Third baseman Fedrick Cardona snared a hard line drive in the second inning and threw to first for a 5-3 double play. That play helped preserve a 1-0 lead that came courtesy of an RBI double by Curry inside the third base line in the bottom of the first.
Cardona delivered his own double inside the third base line in the second inning after a leadoff walk to Anthony Carerra, putting runners in scoring position with nobody out.
Each runner later scored on separate errors, two of three Gainesville runs that scored courtesy of Heritage errors in the second inning alone.
Curry tacked on a two-run single to left to make it 7-0, and Brandon Sewell nearly made it 10-0 on a would-be three-run homer that was robbed when Bryant jumped up and extended his arm over the left field wall to make the grab for the third out.
“We’re hitting our peak, we are,” Curry said. “We’re just playing each game at a time, not thinking ahead.”
Luke Maddox tacked on Gainesville’s eighth run on an RBI groundout in the third, and Curry added an RBI single later in the inning. The Red Elephants managed nine hits in the game.
“He’s really come on lately, I think he was 3 for 3 the last game against Salem,” Kemp said of Curry. “He’s really heating up, and we need him to. He’s had some big hits all year long for us.”
Heritage got its lone run in the fifth on a Gainesville error, after finally getting to Gettys for a pair of singles.
The Red Elephants scored their final two runs in the bottom of the frame on a double steal that led to a throwing error.
Curry, in the batter’s box at the time, was denied the chance to deliver the game-winner, but he said he had no regrets about missing out on a chance for his fourth run-scoring hit of the day.
“As a team we came out and played ball, got the win,” Curry said. “Getting out of here early, that’s good. I’m not going to be selfish like that; I’m happy about our performance today.”
Gainesville could use another one like it on Monday in a game that Kemp believes will be even more important.
The Red Elephants are scheduled to travel to Conyers for a rematch with the Patriots at 5:55 p.m.
“I think they were playing all around to split with us,” Kemp said. “They saved their best two pitchers for Monday, so we’ll go down there and see what we can do."