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Fedrick Cardona scores go-ahead run in the sixth as Gainesville tops Heritage 3-2
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Gainesville's Fedrick Cardona (24) scores on a wild pitch as Heritage pitcher Matt Studdard (23) attempts to make the play at the plate during Wednesday's game in Gainesville. The Red Elephants won 3-2. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A tendon injury in his left hand kept Fedrick Cardona out of Gainesville’s starting lineup Wednesday, but didn’t prevent him from scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning against Heritage at Ivey-Watson Field.

Despite the pre-game injury that made the Red Elephants’ shortstop a late scratch from the lineup card, he came around to score after he entered as a courtesy runner at first base to bring about a 3-2 win.

The win comes in the first game of the week for Gainesville (13-3, 10-1 Region 8-AAAAA) against Heritage, with a trip to Conyers for the second game of the series Friday.

With the game tied at 2-all in the final half of the sixth inning, Cardona was sent out to run at first base when Farris Mance drew a base when he was hit by a pitch.

Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp didn’t hesitate to put his speedy infielder in to run, especially with the Heritage (12-6, 9-4) catcher having issues receiving the ball cleanly from right-handed starter Matt Studdard.

“It was hard for Fedrick to squeeze the bat, but he said his legs were fine,” Kemp said. “He wants to win and he’s going to do anything he can to help us out.”

With Cardona on base and one out, the courtesy runner took to second on a wild pitch by Studdard. After Red Elephants pitcher Jonathan Gettys drew a walk to put two on base, both runners advanced to scoring position on a passed ball.

With Cardona edging off third base, another passed ball led the lead runner to break for the plate and score standing up.

“I didn’t hesitate going home when I saw the ball go to the fence,” said Cardona, who said he hopes to return to the lineup on Friday.

With the lead in hand, Gettys, a Louisiana State University signee, went back out to the mound to finish out his 10-strikeout, complete-game showing.

After Heritage’s Nick Evans reached on a one-out walk, he moved to second on a grounder back to Gettys on the mound for the out at first base. Gainesville’s left-handed pitcher was able to record the game’s final out when Heritage’s lead-off hitter Drew Terrell, who doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice in the first inning, grounded out to end the game.

“Jonathan didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he battles so hard out there on the mound,” said Kemp. “I know he’ll continue to get better as the season moves along.”

In the fifth inning, Gettys pitched around a potential jam when the Patriots put a pair of runners on base with only one out. He got out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts with the batter swinging on a low fastball.

After giving up the first-inning run, Gettys hit 91 mph on the radar gun — the fastest he threw all game — with a pair of second-inning strikeouts.

Heritage’s first-inning lead didn’t last for long.

Anthony Carrera connected on a two-run homer for the Red Elephants in the bottom of the first, scoring Banks Griffith who reached on a lead-off double.

After a rocky first inning, Studdard, who has been a staple for Heritage’s pitching staff for four years, settled down nicely and finished with eight strikeouts and allowed just four hits.

The schedule continues to be tough for Gainesville after the series against Heritage. Next week, Gainesville will have its two games against Winder-Barrow (13-3, 10-1).

Kemp said this tight race at the top of the standings is the way its been as long as his team has played in 8-AAAAA.

“We’re good and have a chance to be really good as a team,” said Kemp. “This region has always been tough, but the good thing about it is if you can get through it you’re well-prepared for the playoffs.”

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