When: 4 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Ivey-Watson Field
Gainesville senior Mikey Gonzalez was cool and calm about the reality that his team’s season rests on today’s Game 3 in a quarterfinal series against South Effingham at Ivey-Watson.
The Red Elephants won the first game 5-2 behind a strong pitching performance from junior lefty Jonathan Gettys, but lost the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader to the visitors from South Georgia 10-3.
Now, for the third time in Gonzalez’s high school career, the Red Elephants are faced with a winner-take-all situation. Game 3 will start at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Ivey-Watson.
Due to the coin flip after the doubleheader was complete, the Mustangs (23-9) will be the home team for Game 3.
“I feel confident in our team,” said Gonzalez. “We’ve faced a Game 3 situation before my freshman and junior season, so this isn’t new to us.”
Through the first two rounds of the postseason, Gainesville (25-6) faced little resistance. However, now in the quarterfinal round, South Effingham’s Carlton Redding was solid, pitching a complete game to earn the win in the nightcap.
“South Effingham is a good team,” said Gonzalez. “They played well in Game 2.
“But we feel like we have the advantage since they’ll have to stay in a hotel room here overnight.”
Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said senior right-hander Harrison Styles will get the ball on the mound to start Game 3.
Gettys will be available to pitch three more innings in today’s game and Caleb Whitenton, who took the loss on the mound in Game 2, will also be allowed to pitch again, based on the GHSA 10-inning rule for pitchers in a given postseason series.
Gainesville previously lost in Game 3 situations in the state semifinals in 2012 and 2014.
“I feel like we’ll be ready to go out and win (Wednesday),” said Gainesville catcher Michael Curry, who homered in both games. “We feel like our No. 3 pitcher is better than their No. 3 pitcher.”
GAME 1, GAINESVILLE 5, SOUTH EFFINGHAM 2: Gettys settled down from a shaky first two innings to strike out 13 batters and allowed only three hits.
The first two innings for Gettys were a battle to find the strike zone, walking three hitters early in the game. Then once he found his groove, Gettys was unhittable. The Red Elephants’ junior ace, who has already verbally committed to LSU, struck out South Effingham’s three batters in order in the fourth inning during a stretch with six consecutive strike outs.
“Once Jonathan got control of his curveball, it was game over,” said Curry.
South Effingham had runners on the corner with no outs in the first, but Gettys got out of the inning with only one run allowed. Mustangs third baseman K.C. Brown grounded to shortstop Fedrick Cardona, which the Red Elephants turned into a double play.
Leadoff hitter Austin Thompson scored from third on the play, to tie the score at 1-1. Gainesville quickly got back in front during the bottom half of the inning. Freshman Banks Griffith ripped a double down the first-base line, then got to third safely and in to score when the throw from right field went over the third baseman’s head.
Before the inning ended, the Red Elephants put two more runs across the plate. Curry connected on a sacrifice fly to right field, and Whitenton smacked an RBI double.
Curry drove in Gainesville’s last run with a long solo home run over the right field fence in the fourth inning.
The Red Elephants had two singles on bunts in the series opener, along with a pair of sacrifice bunts to move runners into scoring position.
GAME 2, SOUTH EFFINGHAM 10, GAINESVILLE 3: Redding was strong for South Effingham throughout the second game, keeping a normally consistent Red Elephants hitting order off-balance. South Effingham’s starter made it through the first 2 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.
Gainesville’s first hit in the nightcap came on Drew Wright’s two-out bunt single down the first-base line. Whitenton cut into a 2-0 hole with a sacrifice fly to score courtesy runner Collier Scott from third in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the home-standing Mustangs tacked five runs on the board to open up a lead to 7-1.
After a double steal to put runners in scoring position, South Effingham’s Corey Horne ripped a single past a drawn-in infield to score a run. With two still on base later in the inning, the Mustangs pushed its final two runs across the plate with Turner Davis’ grounder to shortstop that resulted in a throwing error over first base.
In the top of the sixth, Curry hit his second homer of the night for the Red Elephants, a two-run shot. South Effingham’s Turner Davis answered with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.
South Effingham had to win a Game 3 against Alexander in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals. The Mustangs swept Starr’s Mill 2-1 and 14-3 in the opening round of the playoffs.
The winner of Game 3 will face Jones County in the state semifinals. If Gainesville advances, the series would be played at Ivey-Watson Field.