For the second time in less than a week, Gainesville’s season is coming down to one game.
On Wednesday at Ivey-Watson Field, the Red Elephants split a doubleheader in their second-round Class AAA state playoff series with Dunwoody. They rallied late for a 7-6 win in Game 1, but unable to overcome another early deficit, fell 6-4 in Game 2.
The decisive Game 3 is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. today, also at Ivey-Watson.
“We battled all day long,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “Our offense put up a lot of hits; 22 hits in a doubleheader is pretty good. We just got off to a rough start in the second game and couldn’t overcome it.”
Gainesville (27-3) spent most of the day playing from behind. Dunwoody (21-8) scored four runs in the first inning of Game 1 and stayed in front until the Red Elephants’ half of the sixth inning.
Already staked to a 1-0 lead, Dunwoody’s Tim Lin smashed a three-run home run over the right field fence.
It wasn’t the last time the big first baseman made his presence known. He added a solo home run in the top of the third and narrowly missed another in his third at-bat, settling for a double off the top of the right-field fence.
Jared Martin also added a solo home run for the Wildcats, his coming in the fifth inning and putting Dunwoody up, 6-2.
But while the Wildcats were doing their damage with the long ball, Gainesville was content to chip away at the lead.
Will Maddox started a string of four straight hits with a double in the bottom of the fifth, coming around to score on a Sloan Strickland single. Ryan Griffith followed with another single, driving in K.J. McAllister.
Entering the home half of the sixth down 6-4, things looked bleak when Maddox chopped to second with two outs and nobody on. But the Dunwoody second baseman misplayed it, touching off a stirring three-run, two-out rally.
McAllister, who finished the first game 4-for-4 with three runs scored, had the first of four straight hits this time. Strickland then plated Maddox with a single, Griffith tied the game with another, and Hunter Anglin completed the flurry with a single to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.
Thanks to that hit, Anglin also picked up the win on the mound, giving up five earned runs on nine hits in six innings. Stephen Mason worked a perfect seventh inning to pick up the save.
Strickland finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Griffith went 2-for-4 with two driven in.
In Game 2, the Red Elephants offense seemed ready to keep rolling when it put up two runs in the top of the first, but this time Dunwoody had an answer.
The Wildcats evened the score in their first at-bat, then Lin struck again in the bottom of the second. After three straight walks filled the bases, Lin unloaded them with a towering home run into right-centerfield. He finished the doubleheader with three home runs and eight RBIs.
Gainesville sophomore Ryan Griffith gave up the grand slam and took responsibility for two of the four runs, but yielded only one hit the rest of the way. He finished with two hits and two runs allowed, while striking out five in 4 1/3 innings.
Fellow sophomore David Gonzalez, who struggled with his control through 1 2/3 innings, took the loss for the Red Elephants.
Gainesville cut the lead to 6-3 on a McAllister sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and pulled within two in the sixth when Michael Lorentz and Mason connected on back-to-back doubles. But Dunwoody starter Wes Bancroft stifled that rally and another in the seventh inning to earn the complete game win.
McAllister was again among Gainesville’s leaders at the plate in Game 2, going 2-for-3 with an RBI to finish the day 6-for-7. Lorentz also went 2-for-3 in Game 2, while Mason finished 2-for-4 with an RBI.
After the Wildcats scored only two combined runs after the second inning in Wednesday’s games, Kemp will be hoping his team can avoid another slow start today.
“We’ve got to start from the very beginning of the game and play a complete game (today), and we’ll be fine,” he said.
Mason (6-0) will take the mound for Gainesville, while James Farnell (7-1) is the probable starter for Dunwoody. Both pitchers earned Game 3 wins in last week’s first-round series. Mason held Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe to five hits in six innings in Gainesville’s 12-1 win; Farnell gave up four runs in Dunwoody’s 8-5 win over Hart County.