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Gainesville baseball splits first-round playoffs doubleheader with Dalton
Deciding Game 3 is noon Saturday at Ivey-Watson
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Gainesville's Dalton Kyle (5) fouls off a pitch during Gainesville's first game against Dalton in the first round series of Class 6A baseball tournament at Ivey Watson Field in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

There’s a little more baseball left in Gainesville’s first-round series of the Class 6A state playoffs at Ivey-Watson Field.

Facing a must-win situation in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Dalton, Red Elephants catcher Jared Smith had three extra-base hits and Kyle York was strong for five innings on the mound as they won 9-2. Gainesville dropped the opener, 10-3.

With the split, the deciding third game is at noon today in Gainesville.

“We got punched in the nose in that first game, the guys came back and responded in the second game,” said Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp.

The Red Elephants (22-8) will be visitor in Game 3 as a result of a coin flip at home plate between the coaches that ended nearly six hours of baseball before breaking for the evening.

Smith was the spark in the nightcap for Gainesville, hitting a towering two-run homer in the second inning and a pair of doubles. His long homer was on the heels of Cameron Wilson scoring after he was caught in a pick-off attempt between second and third base but the throw down to second base sailed into the outfield.

Dalton (21-8) was hampered with a pair of early errors as Gainesville jumped to a 4-0 lead through the top of the first inning when Smith, Charlie Wall and Cale Conley strung together a trio of doubles.

“We have all the confidence in the world we’ll win Game 3,” said York, who finished with a pair of strikeouts and allowed four hits.

York was sharp through his first three innings in the second game pitching for the Red Elephants. In the fifth, he got out of a jam with a two-out, swinging strikeout by Dalton cleanup hitter J.P. Tighe with the bases loaded. Then in the sixth inning, the Catamounts grounded into a double play with reliever Jay Hinshaw throwing for Gainesville.

“We struggled early today but pulled it together,” said Smith. “It shows a lot about us as a team.”

Gainesville plated its first run on a passed ball from Dalton left-hander Harrison Norman, who was hit hard during his three innings on the mound. Trailing 7-1, Justin Ketchem entered in the fourth inning and pitched four strong innings for Dalton.

GAME 1: In the first game of the day, Dalton had six hits in the third inning and scored four runs in back-to-back innings to take control. The Catamounts finished the opener with six doubles and 16 hits. Gainesville starter Collier Scott threw 65 pitches in the opener, so he is able to come back out and throw 45 more in the third game, per GHSA pitch-count rules.

Gainesville started the opener strong, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Smith after a lead-off double by Banks Griffith and a bunt single to the third-base side by Cameron Wilson.

The Red Elephants had back-to-back scoring hits by Scott and A.J. Smallwood in the sixth inning against Dalton starter Cole Shelton, who pitched a strong complete game with five strikeouts and no walks.

Tighe had three hits and drove in a pair of runs in the opener for the Catamounts. Shelton had a two-run double for Dalton.

The winner will advance to face Glynn Academy in the second round for another best-of-three series, starting next Thursday in Brunswick.

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