The long ball sent Gainesville High into the quarterfinals Wednesday as the Red Elephants swept LaGrange in a doubleheader at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville.
The second-ranked Red Elephants will host the quarterfinals against the winner of Evans and Dalton, who will play a deciding third game 2 p.m. today. The quarterfinal round will begin with a doubleheader Tuesday at Ivey-Watson Field.
Gainesville (26-4) took the first game of the series 6-3, using a sloppy start from the Grangers (17-13) to put up five runs early. In Game 2, it was a first-inning two-run shot from Anthony Carrera that did the trick for a 2-1 victory.
In both games, it was early runs that became the staple of the victory.
“It’s always important (to score early), especially in the second game,” said Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp. “If you’ve got a one-game lead and you can jump on them and put pressure on them, that changes the whole game. That’s what we did.”
The decisive hit for the Red Elephants in the second game was Carrera’s blast to right field.
With two outs on the board, Sam Carpenter took a five-pitch walk. Carrera stepped in the box and took out a 3-1 pitch to the opposite field.
“I came up with the mindset to get a hit, get on base. There’s a runner on, so you need to do your job: get him over and get him in,” said Carrera. “I came up with that mindset and I hit a home run. Those things come and go. They just happen when you do things right.”
Grangers’ right fielder Cole Freeman made an effort to bring the ball back into play, attempting to rob the home run but narrowly missed it.
In Carrera’s eyes, it was a no-doubter. As soon as the ball left his bat, he stood with a bit of attitude and flicked the bat toward his dugout before heading toward first base for his trot.
“That was a little bit of Jose Bautista,” Carrera said with a smile. “I tried to put a little sauce on it.”
LaGrange, who played as the home team in the second game, put up its only run of the contest in the bottom of the second inning. Designated hitter Champ Willis was hit with a 3-2 pitch.
Willis was moved to second with a fielder’s choice and third on a groundout to the second baseman. Then, Matt Anderson delivered the only hit of the frame for the Grangers, scoring Willis.
From there, the game became a defensive duel and an offensive struggle.
Gainesville would pick up a hit in the second, two in the fourth and one in the sixth in addition to Carrera’s homer to total five for the contest.
LaGrange picked up one hit in every inning of the game, except the seventh where the Grangers had back-to-back singles. The Grangers also left two runners on in each inning, except for the fifth where there were none left.
Collier Scott tossed the first 3 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, one run, two walks and two hit batters in the win.
Jack Langford picked up his second save of the night, throwing 3 2/3 innings. In his time on the mound in Game 2, Langford allowed four hits and one hit batter with two strikeouts.
Outside of the home run for Carrera, Farris Mance led the Red Elephants with a 2 for 3 game at the plate. A.J. Smallwood and Jared Smith delivered the other two hits for Gainesville.
Despite picking up the sweep, Gainesville was out-hit in both games. Game 1 was a wide margin of 13-5. Game 2 was 8-5 in favor of LaGrange.
“Nothing was our best today,” Kemp said. “We played awful hitting, pitching, fielding... It wasn’t us out there, but we found a way to win.”
The Red Elephants did come out on top in the errors column, only recording one error on the night — a misplayed pop fly in the seventh inning of the first game. The Grangers totaled five errors in the doubleheader.
GAINESVILLE 6, LAGRANGE 3 (GAME 1): The Red Elephants jumped on the Grangers with two runs in the bottom of the first — scored on an error and a balk — and three in the second for a 5-1 lead.
Fedrick Cardona scored a run in each of the first two innings and delivered an RBI in the second. He also picked up both of his singles in the two frames to lead Gainesville in the game.
Scott smacked an infield single, which careened off the second baseman’s glove to tally two RBI’s in the contest.
Carpenter also scored a pair, crossing in the first on the balk and again when he hit a two-out solo shot in the sixth inning for an insurance run in his bid for a win on the mound.
Carpenter tossed a solid five innings, giving up nine hits, three runs and two walks. He also hit a batter.
Carpenter’s solo shot in the sixth inning left a save opportunity open for Langford, who tossed the final two innings, allowing four hits and striking out two.
SITUATIONAL HITTING: LaGrange left runners in scoring position in 11 of the 14 innings on Wednesday night, including two innings of bases loaded and five other innings where a runner was at third base.
In six of those innings, the Grangers had a runner at third base with less than two outs, but were unable to get runs across.
ODD STAT: In the first game, the first strikeout didn’t come until the top of the sixth inning when Langford struck out designated hitter Larkin Easterwood for the second out of the frame.
That means a combined 57 batters stood in the box and the four pitchers totaled 166 pitches before the first strikeout in the contest.