The Gainesville High baseball team rallied from a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to win its first game of the Class AAAAA second round against Evans on Wednesday night.
It turned out the Red Elephants wouldn’t need such heroics in the nightcap.
Gainesville won 5-4 in nine innings before securing a 4-0 victory to finish off the sweep.
The Red Elephants (24-5) advance to face the Alexander-South Effingham winner in the state quarterfinals next Tuesday. Game 3 of that series will be played Thursday.
Anthony Carrera’s bases-loaded RBI walk ended the dramatic Game 1 triumph for Gainesville, which scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth after trailing 4-2 in the middle of the inning.
“That was the wildest game I’ve ever been in as a head coach,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “It was a battle. I’m proud of our guys for not giving up. We were down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth and found a way to get three. It was great.”
Mikey Gonzalez scored the winning run in the opener as Carrera recovered from an 0-2 count for the decisive walk.
“That’s something that I love about this team,” Gonzalez said. “We just never give up. So we had great at-bats.”
Michael Curry had three home runs in the doubleheader, including two in the nightcap, to power Gainesville’s offense.
Harrison Styles threw the ninth inning to pick up the first win, and Caleb Whitenton went the distance to earn the second victory.
GAME 2: GAINESVILLE 4, EVANS 0: Curry’s second homer of the day, a solo shot in the top of the first inning of the nightcap, gave the Red Elephants a lead they would never relinquish.
It was the only run Whitenton would need in a complete-game shutout. The senior right-hander scattered four hits with one walk.
Carrera snuffed out the Knights’ best scoring chance in the bottom of the third. Conner Murray singled with two outs and moved to second on a balk, but Carrera’s throw from center field on a single by Matt Anderson allowed Curry to tag out Murray at the plate.
Drew Wright reached on an infield single with one out in the top of the third, took second on a groundout by Fedrick Cardona and scored when Gonzalez reached on an error. Then Curry stepped in and deposited his third right-field blast of the night over the fence for a 4-0 edge.
“I’m just up there trying to do my job,” said Curry of his homers. “And I just happened to run into one.”
Following Carrera’s putout in the bottom half of the inning, Whitenton set down 12 of the final 13 batters he faced, with the lone exception a fifth-inning walk to Elliott Melton.
“Once we get intensity, we’re the best team in the state, for sure,” Curry said.
South Carolina signee Kyle Anderson, a lefty who threw the final 1 1/3 innings of the opener for Evans (19-10), went the first six innings in the finale to take his second loss of the night. He struck out seven while allowing two earned runs on five hits and no walks.
Wright had a pair of singles for the Red Elephants. Matt Anderson’s two singles paced the Knights.
GAME 1: GAINESVILLE 5, EVANS 4, 9 INNINGS: The Knights took the lead early thanks in part to an error, with Colin Dominy’s RBI double putting Evans up 1-0 in the first.
Murray’s homer to center field in the third pushed it to 2-0.
Curry’s two-out home run in the fourth was the Red Elephants’ first hit off Evans starter Hunter Dollander.
Wright reached on a bunt single in the sixth, one of his three infield hits on the night, and scored when an Evans outfielder mishandled the ball after a double by Gonzalez to tie it 2-all.
Wright, Gainesville’s left fielder, had thrown out a runner at the plate in the top of the sixth.
Red Elephants starter Jonathan Gettys allowed the first two batters for the Knights to reach in the seventh before getting the next three out. Curry moved to the mound for the eighth inning and kept Evans off the board after also allowing the first two runners to reach.
“That’s the first appearance I’ve made in a while on the mound,” Curry said. “I just love to compete.”
Gainesville stranded a runner in the seventh and left the bases loaded in the eighth after Kyle Anderson moved to the mound for an inning-ending strikeout.
Styles picked up the win by pitching the ninth, where the Knights took advantage of singles from Austin Gobel, Murray and Austin Shead, a hit batsman and a Gainesville error to score twice and lead 4-2. Styles had one strikeout.
Brandon Sewell singled and Banks Griffith reached on an error to start the bottom of the ninth before Cardona’s RBI double play cut it to 4-3. Gonzalez reached on an error that scored Griffith to tie the contest. Following walks to Curry and Whitenton, Carrera drew the decisive walk.
“They never quit,” Kemp said. “We’ve ran out of outs and lost before, but they’re not going to give up. They’re going to fight the whole way.”
Gettys allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman while striking out seven in a seven-inning outing that earned him a no-decision.
Dollander struck out eight and allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman in 7 2/3 innings that finished with a no-decision.
Sewell had two of Gainesville’s seven hits.
Murray, Matt Anderson and Shead each accounted for two of Evans’ 11 hits.
“It was something else,” Evans coach Ricky Beale said. “The kids battled to get the lead early, and you’ve got to tip your cap to those guys. They scratched and clawed and got back in it.”