A bad case of strep throat left Michael Gettys less than 100 percent for Gainesville’s first round playoff series.
His arm, on the other hand, looked as good as ever.
Gettys allowed two earned runs, five hits and a walk while striking out 14 through six innings in Game 1 of Gainesville’s 7-4 victory over Tucker, while teammate Caleb Whitenton delivered a strong performance of his own on the mound in Game 2 to lead the Red Elephants to a 12-1 win and a sweep of the Tigers on Friday at Ivey-Watson Field.
Gainesville (22-6) has won 11 consecutive games since suffering a 4-1 loss to Loganville on April 4. The Red Elephants advance to the second round and will host the winner of the Rome/Sequoyah series in a doubleheader on Wednesday at Ivey-Watson Field.
“(I got) a shot last night so I could play,” said Gettys, a senior right-hander projected to be one of the top 10 picks in the 2014 MLB Draft.
“My arm felt good, hitting and everything felt good, and I just wanted to help the team win. It was good to come out and get this first round out of the way so we can compete for a state championship.”
Meanwhile, Whitenton tossed five innings of one-hit baseball in the second game, matching the total number of innings he had previously pitched this season. He walked three batters and struck out eight to earn the victory on the mound.
Both pitchers were aided by healthy run support, much of which was set up by a strong series from second baseman Luke Maddox. The junior infielder went 5 for 7 with a double, triple and five RBIs in the doubleheader.
“He’s been playing well since about halfway through the season,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “He’s caught fire and has done a great job for us.
“He’s a special kid. He got hit in the eye (in mid-April) and had about 10 or so stitches and played the next game. He’s that scrappy kid that’s going to do whatever it takes to get on base.”
GAME 1, GAINESVILLE 7, TUCKER 4: Gainesville’s bats were relatively quiet after the first inning in Game 1, but by that time it didn’t matter.
The Red Elephants sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first and pushed six runs across the plate to provide all the support that Gettys needed on the mound.
The senior right-hander allowed two earned runs, five hits and a walk while striking out 14 over six innings.
“Ever since we lost to Loganville, which we felt like we shouldn’t have, we’ve played our best baseball,” Gettys said. “We’ve beaten good teams and we’ve just played every well.”
“We’ve always been really hot in the middle of the season, towards the end, and get cold in the playoffs, but this year I feel like we got hot towards the end and it carried into the playoffs. If we hit the ball we’ll win, because we have good pitching.”
Gettys got the scoring started for Gainesville in the bottom of the first with an infield single that drove in one run and resulted in an another on an ensuing error.
Two batters later, Whitenton added a two-run double to boost the lead to 4-0.
Anthony Carrera tacked on a sacrifice fly later in the inning, and Drew Wright drove in the Red Elephants’ sixth and final run of the frame with a RBI bunt single.
Tucker (17-9) got its first run in the third on a two-out, bloop single by Jullian Sewell, then cut the lead to 6-2 in the fourth on an RBI single by Joe Farrar.
Gainesville got one run back in the fourth on a sac fly by Maddox.
The Tigers threatened to rally in the seventh, after Gainesville reliever Harrison Styles issued a one-out walk, hit a batter and surrendered a single to Aaron Perry.
Sewell drove in a run on an RBI ground out, before Tyler Sampson added an RBI single that cut the lead to 7-4 and brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Jake Lovvorn.
Sims Griffith came on in relief and struck out Lovvorn to end the threat.
The Red Elephants finished with 12 hits and benefitted from three errors by the Tigers.
GAME 2, GAINESVILLE 12, TUCKER 1: Playing as the visiting team in Game 2, Gainesville got off to another fast start with three runs in the first inning.
Griffith led off with a single and later scored on an infield single by Maddox. Gettys later drove Maddox in with a double, then stole third and scored on an ensuing errant throw.
That would have been enough support for Gainesville’s pitching staff, thanks largely to Whitenton.
His only real struggles came in the second inning, when he hit a batter and walked two others to load the bases with two outs. He then went to a 3-2 count on Perry, putting the baserunners in motion, but struck out the hitter looking to end the threat.
“I was just thinking, ‘Throw it over the plate and see if he can hit it,’” Whitenton said.
Gainesville blew the game open with a five-run fourth that Whitenton got started with a hard-earned walk. His was the first of four consecutive walks issued by Tucker pitchers, the last of which pushed the Red Elephants’ fourth run across the plate.
Drew Wright followed with a run-scoring single, and Maddox blew the game open shortly afterward with a bases-clearing, three-run triple to left-center field.
“I’m seeing the ball a lot better than I was (earlier in the year),” Maddox said.
“It’s just kind of coming to me right now. My hands feel good and we’re just playing really good right now. I’ve got Gettys (behind me in the batting order), so if I get on, I know I’m about to get home.”
The Red Elephants added a run in the fifth courtesy of a solo homer by Sewell, and another in the sixth on a sac fly by Griffith.
Tucker scored its only run in the sixth to avoid the mercy rule, allowing Gainesville to add on two more runs in the seventh on a run-scoring double by Sewell and a balk.
The Tigers managed only two hits and committed four errors. Gainesville finished with eight hits.
“We did a better job in the second game than the first game as far as keeping the intensity,” Kemp said.