Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said he could chalk up Saturday’s 10-1 loss to Dalton in the deciding third game of the first-round Class 6A playoff series as a step forward in the maturation process for his young program. With only two seniors, the Red Elephants (22-9) will have a bulk of this group back next season, competing to make a deep playoff run as this program is well known.
“We’ll get better from this,” said Kemp after the season ended at Ivey-Watson Field. “I have a lot of respect for Dalton and coach (Rhett) Parrott.
“That’s a great baseball team. ... I’d be surprised if they don’t win in the next round at Glynn Academy.”
One of Gainesville’s seniors, AJ Smallwood, threw four solid innings. He allowed just four hits, struck out two Dalton batters and left the game trailing 2-1.
Dalton (22-8) scored six runs in the sixth inning to put the game away, capped by catcher J.P. Tighe’s three-run, double that was hit hard down the left-field line. Tighe finished the game with a pair of doubles and four RBIs for the Catamounts.
The Catamounts took the series with complete-game outings on the mound by Yale signee Cole Shelton in Game 1 and Harrison Norman to clinch the series Saturday.
“Gainesville’s a great program, so it feels good to win here,” said Norman, who allowed just six hits in Game 3. “Now we just have to get back to work Monday and get ready for the next round.”
The Red Elephants scored first with catcher Jared Smith’s RBI double to the outfield wall in the first inning. Smith played well all weekend, finishing with a two-run homer and three doubles.
The Catamounts also took advantage of two infield errors and a pair of throwing errors by the Red Elephants.
In the sixth inning, Cade Gabriel reached on a bunt single, then shortstop Maddux Haughton reached on an infield error to plate a run.
In the fifth inning, Dalton started to get a little separation with runners on the corners when it played a safety squeeze by Norman perfectly to the third-base side of the pitcher’s mound that scored the run and also got on with a hit.
Gainesville left runners in scoring position each of the first three innings. Cameron Wilson had a two-out double for the Red Elephants in the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, Haughton snagged a hard-hit line drive to the second-base side and threw to first for a force out to end the inning.
Dalton finished the game with three extra-base hits, 11 hits total.
“Dalton was really squaring up on the ball,” Kemp said. “Once a team as good as that gets going, it’s hard to stop.”