After shutting out West Laurens twice early in the season, players on the Gainesville baseball team knew the Raiders would be out for revenge.
“They had been talking a lot about how they didn’t want us to do the same thing to them again,” sophomore Michael Gettys said. “We knew they weren’t going to lay down easily. We just wanted to go out and jump on them like we did last time.
“We responded well, I think.”
That’s putting it lightly.
The Red Elephants exploded for a 15-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday at Ivey-Watson Field, then finished off West Laurens with a 9-3 win in the second to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The two-game sweep preserved the Red Elephants’ (29-0) perfect record and ensured that they would be among the final eight teams for the first time since 2010.
“Now is where everything starts,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “When you make the Elite 8, every team is good.”
Gainesville will face the winner of the Spalding/Carrollton series, which was postponed on Wednesday due to rain.
The two teams will play a doubleheader today. If Spalding, a No. 1 seed, wins, the Red Elephants will play the quarterfinals on the road.
The Red Elephants were equally successful against West Laurens in the regular season, winning a pair of games 11-0 and 15-0.
Going into the playoff series, Kemp said that he was worried how his team would respond against West Laurens, which was out to redeem itself after the blowout losses it suffered to Gainesville early in the season.
“I worry about everything, man,” he said.
The Red Elephants made it a point, however, to jump out early to keep the Raiders from gaining any confidence or momentum.
Getting the start on the hill, David Gonzalez, who walked four and gave up four runs in a win against Heritage-Catoosa last Friday, came out with electric stuff. In the shortened four-inning win, the senior faced 15 batters, just three over the minimum, and allowed one hit while striking out seven.
The hit was a bloop single that barely made it over the outstretched arms of second baseman Stephen Mason.
“I felt good,” he said after the game. “Last time, I pitched well enough for the win, but today I felt like I had my good stuff. Once we got the lead, I knew my job was to just preserve that lead.”
That job quickly became just a formality.
The Gainesville offense struck for 16 hits in the game and scored runs in every inning — two in the first, three in the second, three in the third and seven in the fourth.
As has become customary, the top of the order set the table for the middle of the order.
Mason got the game started with a double over the center fielder’s head. He moved to second on a single by catcher Skyler Weber and to third when Ryan Griffith grounded out.
Griffith lined the ball hard off of West Laurens pitcher Tyler Green’s thigh, but Green recovered to throw Griffith out at first. Mason scored when the next batter, Hunter Anglin, grounded to third.
Mason finished 2 for 2 with three RBIs and three runs scored in the game. Weber was 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored and Gonzalez helped his own cause, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs, including two on a double to end the game.
The first five batters in the order went to the plate in every inning in the first game.
“Those guys set the tone,” Kemp said. “They have all year. Our offense responded well today.”
Gettys, who got the start on the mound in the second game, echoed Kemp’s words.
“Everyone is hot right now,” he said. “I love to hit the ball, and we’re doing a great job right now.”
The offense wasn’t as potent in the second game, but still managed nine runs on nine hits. Gettys helped his own cause with a two-run homer in the third.
Leading 5-1, Anglin started the inning with a double and came around to score on a triple from Gonzalez, who batted next. Gettys then lofted a no-doubter well over the fence over left field to extend the lead to 8-1 after three. Gainesville added one in the fourth and fended off a minor rally from the Raiders.
Gettys, who said he didn’t feel like he had his best stuff, nonetheless went four innings for the win. He struck out four and allowed three runs.
One of the runs came on a solo home run from Dustin Fowler in the first, and two scored on three straight hits and a sacrifice fly to start the third.
“I pitched well enough,” he said. “I didn’t feel like it was great stuff. I left a couple of pitches up. I’ll have it better next time, though.”
Anglin pitched the final three innings, striking out four, including three in the sixth, to record the save.
The quick series victory will allow the Red Elephants an extra day’s rest while Spalding and Carollton begin their doubleheader today. Kemp said that helps his pitchers and also gives him an opportunity to go scout the potential opponents.
“It worked out well for us,” he said.