The top baseball teams in Region 8-AAA were close in the standings heading into Friday with just two games separating the top four schools.
As a result of Gainesville’s 7-4 win against North Hall at Jody Davis Field, it’s now even tighter.
The Red Elephants (10-2, 8-2 Region 8-AAA) scored five runs in the first innings, Stephen Mason pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and they won an emotionally-charged game. North Hall (9-3, 8-2) and Gainesville are now tied with an 8-2 region mark, behind only White County (10-1, 9-1).
“We’re all bunched up now and everyone is still in the race,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said.
“It’ll all shake itself out in the end,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “As much as people make about this rivalry, it’s still just one ballgame.”
Leading 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Mason pitched around putting two runners on base with only one out. Again in the seventh, North Hall threatened to score. Chris Stevens (2-for-3, walk) reached base on a one-out walk, and Zach Mize followed with a two-out single. However, Mason recorded the game’s final out when the last Trojans batter flew out to the warning track in center field.
“Stephen’s such a competitor, we don’t mind throwing him out on the mound when the game is on the line,” Kemp said.
Trailing 7-1, North Hall managed to get back in the game with a three-run fifth inning. With the bases loaded an no outs, Whit Bowen grounded out to score one run. Then with two outs, Stevens hit a ground ball that hit first base and hopped over the Red Elephants’ first baseman’s head, driving in two more runs.
Mongero was pleased to see his team battle back despite a slow start to the game.
“That’s the seventh time this season that we’ve fallen behind in the first inning and we just continue to battle,” Mongero said. “I’m so proud of how our team played tonight.”
Gainesville struck first with five runs in the first inning. After a lead-off single from Mason, Ryan Griffith connected on an RBI single, followed by an RBI double by Hunter Anglin. Leading 2-0, Gainesville starting pitcher David Gonzalez hit a three-run home run over the left field fence on a 1-2 count.
The Red Elephants scored their final two runs in the fifth inning. After singles from Anglin and Gonzalez to start the inning, Gainesville’s Lee Sisson moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Jimmy Kemp followed with an RBI single that scored Anglin, but courtesy runner Shad Petree was tagged out during a hard collision with Trojans catcher Eli Gilmer.
Umpires ejected Petree for his actions, but declined to comment on the ruling after the game. After the collision, Gilmer was motionless at the plate causing both benches to clear and emergency personnel to be called in to tend to Gilmer, who declined to be transported to the hospital, according to Mongero.
Gilmer was still awaiting a test for a concussion after the game.
“I thought it was an absolutely malicious hit,” Mongero said.
“I thought the umpire got it right,” Kemp said.
Gainesville hosts Walnut Grove at 5:55 p.m. Monday at Ivey-Watson Field. North Hall hosts Oconee County at 5:55 p.m. Monday at Jody Davis Field.