Gainesville has found a comfortable groove that has worked to perfection in the playoffs.
For the third consecutive round of play in the Class AAA state tournament, the second-ranked Red Elephants (31-0) hit for power, had two strong pitching performances and won their best-of-three series with a two-game sweep.
On Wednesday, Gainesville swept its quarterfinal matchup with 11-1 and 12-1 victories against Carrollton (19-14) at Ivey-Watson Field, setting up a state semifinal matchup with the LaGrange/Ringgold winner starting Monday in Gainesville.
Gainesville is in the running for its first state title since 2002.
“I feel like we’re really starting to peak right now,” said Gainesville third baseman Hunter Anglin, who had a pair of two-run home runs in game two. “We’re all playing well together, and it’s just a really good vibe for the team.”
After a slow start at the plate, Gainesville turned it up with a nine-run fifth inning to put the first game away. Then in the second, the Red Elephants didn’t let up, bashing six home runs in the nightcap.
Red Elephants sophomore Michael Gettys led off the second in game two with a solo home run. He was a big reason Gainesville won game one after stringing together three extra-base hits, including a three-run triple in the fifth that opened the game up after it was tied 1-1.
And Gainesville catcher Skyler Weber had a three-run home run in each game.
“Six home runs is certainly fun to watch,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “They were unbelievable hitting the ball tonight.”
“Our bats are all clicking now,” Gettys added. “Everyone is hitting from top to bottom in our order.”
GAINESVILLE 12, CARROLLTON 1: In game two, Gainesville scored nine runs on four home runs to open up a 9-1 lead through two innings. In the first inning, Ryan Griffith put a two-out double in the gap, then Anglin followed with his first multi-run homer of the night.
Then in the second inning, Gainesville hit three home runs and pieced together six total hits. After Gettys’ lead-off homer, designated hitter Caleb Whitenton hit a long double to deep center field. Singles from Luke Moore and Stephen Mason were followed by a three-run homer for Weber. Two batters later, Anglin knocked his second homer of the game.
With a hefty lead already in hand, Moore had a pair of solo homers for Gainesville in the latter innings. In the third inning, Moore was credited for an inside-the-park home run when the Trojans’ left fielder collided with the wall and couldn’t hold on to the ball. Then in the fifth, Moore scored Gainesville’s last run on a solo home run over the wall in center field.
He finished game two with a hit in all three plate appearances.
Even though he had a comfortable lead to work with, starting pitcher Gettys was forced to pitch out of some jams to earn the win. In the second inning, Carrollton loaded the bases with no outs, only to score one run.
The Red Elephants managed to get out of the inning when Carrollton’s Chris Hicks grounded into a double play, one of five on the night that Gainesville’s defense was able to turn.
Gettys finished his four-inning stint with five strikeouts and allowed three walks.
GAINESVILLE 11, CARROLLTON 1: The first game of the day turned sharply in Gainesville’s favor with a well-executed sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning by senior Ryan Griffith.
After a lead-off single from Skyler Weber and the score tied at 1-1, the Red Elephants were playing to try and manufacture a run. However, Griffith’s bunt moved Weber down to second, followed by an intentional walk to Anglin and a single from starting pitcher David Gonzalez that loaded the bases with just one out.
Gettys made Carrollton pay with a three-run triple down the right-field line, his second consecutive triple.
“I like getting to hit in that kind of situation,” Gettys said. “I was just trying to get the ball in play to score a run, and I was fortunate enough to be able to hit it right down the line.”
His final hit of the game was a double in the fifth inning, and he was able to score the winning run on an infield single.
Also in the fifth inning for Gainesville, Moore and Sims Griffith produced RBI singles.
Now, Gainesville needs to win two more series’ to capture the state title. Should Gainesville advance to the state championship series, it is guaranteed to be at Ivey-Watson Field and would start with a doubleheader on May 26.
“There’s not a better feeling,” said Ryan Griffith, a senior. “Myself, Stephen Mason and David Gonzalez have been playing for those for four years now.
“We’ve had some good teams in that time, but never been able to get over that hump. But, I think we’ve been able to get past that point now.”