It wasn't a pretty start for Gainesville against Oconee County during Friday's 8-AAA showdown featuring two of the state's top 10 teams, but the No. 7 Red Elephants' recovery and finish more than made up for it in a 15-0, three-inning mercy rule win over the third-ranked Warriors at Ivey-Watson Field.
Gainesville (7-2, 5-2) pitcher David Gonzalez started the game by loading the bases on three straight walks to Oconee County (7-2, 6-1). But he struck the next batter out, picked off a runner from second base, then struck out another batter to escape the inning unscathed.
The Red Elephants put up five runs in the first, another run in the second and nine runs in the third to abruptly end the game and avenge Wednesday's disappointing 9-7 loss to unranked region foe Lumpkin County.
"After I got that first strikeout with the bases loaded, I think that really got us the momentum," said Gonzalez, who settled down and allowed just three base runners after the first inning. "That got us started.
"They told me at the beginning of the game they were going to give me some runs, and I guess they did."
Will Maddox opened the scoring in the first inning with a sacrifice fly, then Gainesville scored on an error and an RBI single from Gonzalez. Hunter Anglin stole home on a double-steal, and Gonzalez later scored when Simms Griffith hit into a fielder's choice to give the Red Elephants a 5-0 lead.
In the second, Martinez retired the first two batters, hit the third and struck out Nick Bradshaw to end the inning.
"David looked great (warming up before the game) in the pen, so we knew he had great stuff," Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp said. "He came out and didn't have it with the first three hitters, but he got out of it and did great for us."
Maddox hit a solo homer in the second to bring the score to 6-0.
In the third, Martinez gave up back-to-back singles with one out before getting a strikeout and fly-out.
Then came the bottom half of the inning in which Gainesville sent 13 batters to the plate and burned through three Oconee County pitchers, knocking out starter Conner White after 2 1/3 innings. Timmy Reeck went two-thirds of an inning and Cory Holbert didn't record an out.
Skyler Weber's three-run home run put Gainesville up 9-0. The sophomore catcher said he was motivated by a prior incident in the second inning when he was behind the plate and he mishandled a pitch that hit his mitt and went behind Bradshaw with a runner on first. Weber scrambled to pick up the ball, which was just behind Bradshaw's feet. According to Weber, Bradshaw refused to move out of his way. Gonzalez struck out Bradshaw looking, and Weber sprinted toward the dugout.
He could hardly wait for his at bat in the third inning.
"It put a fire under my butt and kind of got me mad," said Weber, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. "I was like, ‘Let's go. That's what you get. This is Gainesville.'"
The Red Elephants continued to make their presence known, scoring six more runs on four hits, two errors, five walks and a hit batter.
"We just have to pick ourselves up and go," Warriors coach Stan Fricks said. "Everyone knew there wasn't going to be a team that went undefeated in the region this year."
Gainesville plays at Johnson 5:55 p.m. Monday.