A slow start was too much to overcome for the Gainesville High baseball team in its first loss of the season Tuesday at Ivey-Watson Field.
The Red Elephants tried to rally behind a sixth-inning Caleb Whitenton solo home run to left field and even brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. But Mountain View reliever Tyler Zak induced a game-ending fly ball to center field from Drew Wright as the Bears defeated the Red Elephants 6-3.
“We had a lot of pressure on them right there. I wish we would have done it with less than two outs,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “I wish we’d have done it before that, get our big guys to the plate, 3-4-5-6.”
It was a matchup of teams playing strong non-region schedules, as the Class AAAAAA Bears (3-4) were coming off a weekend where they lost three games in Tallahassee, Fla.
“This is a great measuring stick for us, and it’s also more-so a great opportunity for us to play a really good team and to do some good things on our part. We really needed that tonight,” said Mountain View coach Jason Johnson, whose team finished with 10 hits. “I was very pleased. We came off a weekend where we didn’t swing the bat very well.”
Mountain View built a 5-2 edge through three innings, highlighted by a three-run second inning.
Chandler Powell doubled, moved to third on a Zack Miller single and scored on a Brad Weaver sacrifice fly for the Bears in the top of the first.
Gainesville tied it 1-all in the bottom half of the inning as Wright reached on a bunt single, stole second and came around on a Whitenton single.
Sam Freitas led off the decisive top of the second with a single and took second on an error, and Luis Vilchez followed up with a two-run home run to right field. Cameron Hankins singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an error to push it to 4-1.
“We didn’t come ready to play. Mountain View did,” Kemp said. “And we learned real quick that if you don’t come ready to play, you’re going to get beat.”
The Red Elephants’ Anthony Carrera pulled Gainesville (4-1) back within 4-2 on a leadoff solo homer to left field in the bottom of the second. A Christian Rodriguez RBI single for the Bears in the third made it 5-2.
Whitenton’s homer in the sixth cut it to 5-3, but two singles and an error allowed Mountain View to add an insurance run in the top of the seventh.
Jack Langford was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh before Frederick Cardona’s single gave the Red Elephants a pair of base runners with two outs. But Zak was able to coax the third fly ball of the seventh and his fourth in two innings of work.
Hankins tossed five innings for the Bears to pick up the win in his first mound appearance this season. He allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks while also tallying seven strikeouts. Zak earned the save with two innings of relief, allowing an earned run on two hits and a hit batsman with one strikeout and no walks.
“They say guys like that have ice in their veins, and he does,” Johnson said of Zak. “He’s done a great job for two years.”
Whitenton started and went three innings to take the loss for Gainesville. He allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Mikey Gonzalez allowed an unearned run on three hits in four innings of relief with two strikeouts, no walks and two hit batsmen.
“He’s a good pitcher and he’s a competitor,” Kemp said of Gonzalez. “He gets out there and battles.”
Gainesville hosts Grayson at 7 p.m. Friday, and Mountain View plays at Archer at 5:30 p.m. today.