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Gainesville offense roars to life in opening day win
Gainesville’s Sims Griffith dives safely back to first while Habersham Central’s Ryan Smith waits for the throw during the game at Ivey-Watson Field Monday evening. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville junior Hunter Anglin didn’t worry when the Red Elephants fell behind Monday night at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville.

"Since I’ve been here I’ve never had the feeling, whether we’re down by two or by eight, that we can’t score enough on offense to get back in the game," the junior pitcher/third baseman said.

Anglin backed up that feeling in the fifth inning as he ripped a two-run triple into the right-field corner to erase the deficit and put the Red Elephants ahead for good on the way to a 15-5, six-inning win over Habersham Central in the season opener.

Habersham went ahead 4-2 in the third inning when Raiders senior Jake Brewer lofted a pitch from Gainesville starter Michael Gettys just over the left-field wall for a grand slam home run.

"They really came out and played well," said Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp of his team’s opening-day opponent. "They beat us for the first few innings."

Gainesville briefly took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run double by junior Luke Moore, one of his two doubles and two of his three RBIs on the day. But the Red Elephants found themselves in a hole for the next two innings.

Kemp saw it as a chance for Gainesville to practice the art of the comeback.

"It was good for the team to get behind and have to come back, Kemp said. "We had some great hits."

The Red Elephants had a lot of hits, recording 17 to just four for the Raiders, who also committed four errors.

Four of those Gainesville hits came in the fifth inning as the hosts turned a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 lead. Senior Ryan Griffith, who also recorded the win with 2 1/3 innings of relief, started the rally with an RBI single to center field to cut the Habersham Central lead to 4-3.

With runners on the corners, Anglin stepped up and turned the tables, driving in two to take a 5-4 lead, which ballooned to 7-4 by the end of the frame.

In the next inning Anglin, who said he is first and foremost a pitcher, came in with the bases loaded and one out to try and defuse the Raiders’ rally attempt.

"I’ve always been taught by my grandparents that, in that type of situation, you’ve got to trust your team," said Anglin, who proceeded to get the first batter out on a run-scoring ground out to the shortstop, before inducing another grounder for the final out, limiting the damage to one run.

It was a run that didn’t do any damage as Gainesville followed up its five-run fifth with an eight-run sixth to end the game an inning early with a 10-run mercy ruling.

Griffith, who finished 2 for 3 with a pair of walks and two RBIs, ended the sixth-inning eruption with a hard single through the middle, allowing designated hitter Stephen Mason to trot home as the game-ending run.

Habersham Central senior Alex Smith took the loss on the mound, allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings. Sophomore Josh Anderson pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the Raiders.

The game’s ending proved Anglin’s conviction: The offense will come through. It was also a game where Kemp could see room for improvement.

"It was early and we made some mistakes," the coach said. "But this is the time where every team is trying to figure out their identity."

Gainesville is still trying to get healthy as well, as senior starter David Gonzalez, a University of Georgia commitment, continues to recover from strep throat.

The Red Elephants won’t have to wait long for the next test. No. 8 West Laurens comes to Gainesville for games at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

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