The way Gainesville's David Gonzalez pitched Monday against North Hall at Ivey-Watson Park, he was hoping to earn the win on the mound. But after the Trojans scored the tying run on a passed ball in the top of the seventh, Gonzalez seized the opportunity to help win the game offensively.
After leading off the bottom of the seventh with an infield single, he came home to score the winning run on an infield hit from Lee Sisson. The ball was fielded cleanly at third base, but the throw was wide of the plate and the Red Elephants won 2-1.
With the win, Gainesville (20-4, 18-4 Region 8-AAA) moved into second place and is assured no less than the No. 3 seed to the postseason.
"North Hall is a great team and they always give us a good game," Gonzalez said. "This win was big because we know if we win out, we earn the No. 2 seed and play at home in the playoffs."
The win puts the two schools tied in the Region standings, but Gainesville owns the tie-breaker with both wins in the season series against the Trojans (19-5, 18-4).
After Gonzalez led off the seventh with a single, Michael Gettys followed through with a textbook sacrifice bunt to the first base side, followed by a walk from Ryan Pitts. A passed ball off the glove of North Hall's catcher advanced both runners to scoring position.
With two runners on and the winning run on third, North Hall was forced to draw in its entire defense. On a 3-2 count, Sisson poked the ball toward third base, and with Gonzalez charging home the ball it was necessary to throw home immediately, causing the wide throw.
White County (19-3, 18-3) still owns first place in the region after its game against Lanier was postponed due to rain on Monday. At Ivey-Watson, the game was delayed just over an hour when a heavy storm hit shortly before the first pitch.
Gonzalez didn't seem to mind the wait.
He threw 6 2/3 innings and had eight strikeouts while allowing six hits. One out away from a complete-game shutout, North Hall leadoff hitter Andrew Smith connected on a hard-hit double off the left-field wall and putting two runners in scoring position. Pinch runner Adam Kelly scored for the Trojans on a passed ball to tie the score at 1-1.
That's when Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp called for sophomore Hunter Anglin to come into the game in relief of Gonzalez. Despite falling down 2-0 in the count to the first and only hitter he faced, Anglin recorded a strikeout to earn the win and keep the Red Elephants in the game.
After the game, Gonzalez (7-1) said he didn't mind not getting the victory, despite pitching a gem most of the night.
"That's what Hunter's for," Gonzalez said. "He came in in a pressure situation and did a great job."
Gonzalez continued to stay on track for a shutout by getting out of pressure situations, none more intense than when he loaded the bases on a four-pitch walk to North Hall starting pitcher Chris Stevens in the third inning with two outs. However, Gonzalez settled down and recorded the final out with a strikeout on three pitches.
"I like to be in those situations," Gonzalez said. "I feel like if you don't like to pitch in those types of situations, then you don't need to be pitching."
"David was an animal out there tonight," Kemp said. "And he was really efficient with his pitches."
North Hall had a pair of runners on base in the sixth inning when Gonzalez again sat down the third out on a strikeout. Gainesville also got out of a fifth-inning jam by turning a double play with two Trojans runners on.
In the first inning, Red Elephants right fielder Shad Petree made back-to-back diving catches to keep the game scoreless, along with a shoe-string catch in the fifth inning.
For the first six innings, the only run came when Gainesville catcher Skyler Weber drove in Stephen Mason on an RBI single in the first inning. Mason reached base on a leadoff double.
On Wednesday, Gainesville visits Walnut Grove at 5:55 p.m., while North Hall visits Oconee County in Watkinsville. The season wraps up Friday with Gainesville at Chestatee and North Hall hosting Johnson.