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Gainesville battles back, forces Game 3
Ringgold’s Wright Hackett is safe at first base Monday as Gainesville’s Ryan Griffith catches the ball during a game in the Class AAA state semifinals at Ivey-Watson Field. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp got just the response he needed out of his team in the nightcap of Monday’s state semifinal doubleheader against Ringgold. After losing Game 1 of the best-of-three series 4-3 — the second-ranked Red Elephants’ first loss of the season — Gainesville stormed right back with a 12-2 win in five innings to keep its state championship hopes alive.

With the split, Gainesville (32-1) will play host to Ringgold (28-6) at 3 p.m. today at Ivey-Watson Field to determine which team will move on to the state championship series this weekend against the Columbus/Troup winner.

Top-ranked Columbus, which has been ranked one spot ahead of Gainesville throughout the season in state polls, won Game 1 on Monday before falling in Game 2. The Gainesville/Ringgold winner will host the state championship series.

“Of course it was tough to lose Game 1, but we didn’t hold our heads down about it,” Gainesville senior infielder Stephen Mason said. “We were able to come out and took a big lead in the second game, now we get to come back and play again (today).”

Kemp said junior Hunter Anglin (5-0) will start Game 3 today for the Red Elephants against Ringgold’s Austin Parrish (9-0). Though Anglin has pitched primarily in relief this season, he’s still thrown 37 2/3 innings with only four earned runs allowed for a 0.74 ERA.

“Hunter’s been a big-game pitcher for us,” Kemp said. “He’s thrown in as many big games as anyone over the past three years for us.”

Sophomore Michael Gettys picked up the win for the Red Elephants in Game 2. He threw a complete game and only allowed five hits with six strikeouts.

“Michael came out and did a great job for us when we had our backs against the wall,” Kemp said.

With today’s game determining if Gainesville continues its season, Gettys and Game 1 starter David Gonzalez will also be available to pitch again in relief.

After a huge base-running mistake with the bases loaded and no outs cost Gainesville two outs and stopped a potentially big fifth inning in Game 1, the Red Elephants put the second game away quickly with eight runs in the third inning, seven of those with two outs.

Gainesville’s Caleb Whitenton had the first big hit in the third inning with a single to the outfield that pushed two runners across the plate. Then Luke Moore put down an infield single to load the bases again. Sims Griffith followed with an RBI single that kept the bases loaded.

With the bases loaded for the third time in the inning, Stephen Mason deposited a grand slam over the fence to left-center field.

“Caleb got it going with that big hit, then Stephen had the big blow,” Kemp said. “That was huge for us.”

Gainesville’s first run on the third inning came on an RBI single from Anglin. Gonzalez and Gettys both followed with walks against Tigers starter Adam Weldon to load the bases.

Moore added an RBI single for Gainesville in the fourth inning, and Skyler Weber had an RBI double in the fifth.

Gonzalez finished Game 2 with two hits and reached base in all four plate appearances.

RINGGOLD 4, GAINESVILLE 3: Corey Kafka threw 110 pitches and kept the Red Elephants off balance for much of Game 1. Ringgold’s starter went all seven innings on the mound and allowed only five hits with eight strikeouts.

He’ll also be available to throw up to three innings of relief in Game 3.

His quick thinking also kept the Red Elephants from putting up a huge fifth inning.

With Gainesville trailing 4-2, Mason connected on a bases-loaded single to right field, but Kafka took the relay throw from the right fielder and quickly fired back to third to get Gainesville’s lead runner out. After applying the tag for the out at third base, the third baseman quickly threw to second to catch another Red Elephant runner off the bag.

That double play put Gainesville in a situation with a runner at first with two outs, instead of having the bases loaded with no outs.

Gonzalez took the loss, his first of the season, despite only allowing five hits over seven innings.

“We should have won the first game,” Gettys said. “David pitched a really good game for us.”

Kafka also helped himself at the plate with a two-run single through the hole on the left side of the infield, giving the Tigers a 2-0 early lead. In the fifth inning with a pair of runners in scoring position and a pair of outs, Reed Walden blasted a two-run double to the deepest part of center field for the Tigers.

In the fifth, Gettys started the inning for Gainesville with a solo home run to right field.

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