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Gainesville finishes region strong, shuts out Apalachee
Gainesville High pitcher Michael Gettys delivers a pitch for the Red Elephants in the third inning of their Region 8-AAAAA game with Apalachee at Ivey-Watson Field on a damp Wednesday evening. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Following Gainesville’s 10-0 win over Apalachee in its final region game Wednesday at Ivey-Watson Field, Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp finally had a chance to reflect on the magnitude of his team’s achievements this season, most notably their Region 8-AAAAA title.

Despite jumping up two classifications with last year’s realignment, Gainesville (21-3, 14-2) entered what was already one of the toughest baseball regions in the state and barely skipped a beat on its way to the top. That includes a sweep of fellow nationally-ranked squad Loganville and a pair of splits against fellow playoff teams Winder-Barrow and Flowery Branch.

“We had four teams in the top 10, and we had all three of the top three,” Kemp said. “We knew this region was unbelievably hard, and I’m proud of our guys for winning it, because it really does say something to win this region.”

With Wednesday’s win, all that stands in front of the Red Elephants is the Class AAAAA state playoffs, which begins next Friday at Ivey-Watson Field against the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AAAA.

It leaves a little more than a week to work out the final kinks before beginning a postseason that has all the makings of a long and successful run.

“The kids are playing good and they’re playing confident, and that’s all we can ask for,” Kemp said. “I still feel like we can play better than what we’ve played. Our best baseball is ahead of us.”

A strong statement for a coach to make about a team that outscored its final region opponent 25-0 over two games.

Gainesville enjoyed a six-run inning in the fourth inning then tacked on one more in the fifth to activate the mercy rule and end the game early after it was delayed by an hour with rain.

Michael Gettys, Hunter Anglin and Luke Moore each brought in a run to put the Red Elephants up 6-0 before Brandon Sewell ripped a bases-loaded triple to deep center field to clear the basepaths and put his team up by nine.

Caleb Whitenton secured the win in the fifth inning with a hard-hit grounder that slipped out the control of Apalachee second baseman Chance Rodriguez and allowed Sims Griffith to score from third.

“The offense and bats are starting to come, and we’re still pitching well,” Griffith said. “We still have a couple things to put together, then we’ll be good.”

Griffith and Whitenton each collected three hits on the night, and Griffith scored three runs and tallied an RBI with his sacrifice groundout in the first inning that scored Gettys and gave Gainesvile a 1-0 lead. The junior shortstop also saw some time on the mound, replacing Gettys in the fifth inning and shutting the door on the Wildcats (12-14, 7-9).

Gettys barely needed the relief. He faced only 14 batters in four innings, striking out nine and allowing just two hits for his eighth win of the season.

“We did what we wanted to do for him,” Kemp said. “We wanted to give him a low pitch count night. He did that, and he did a great job.”

Gainesville added to their one-run lead in the third inning, when Skyler Weber doubled to score Griffith, then was brought home himself on Whitenton’s two-bagger on the ensuing at-bat.

Weber was one of four Red Elephant hitters to collect two hits, along with Moore, Sewell and Luke Maddox. Gainesville collected 15 hits total.

“I felt like we did a good job of hitting the ball hard,” Kemp said. “We were able to put some hits together and capitalize. The guys did a good job at the plate.”

Gainesville will play one final game at 5:55 p.m. tonight at Winder-Barrow to complete their regular season schedule. The game will not count in the region standings.