Gainesville’s baseball program is showing enough youthful resiliency to make up for past mistakes.
Following up three losses to open the region slate last week against Winder-Barrow, the Red Elephants (12-6, 2-3 Region 8-AAAAAA) on Wednesday won their second game of the week against Habersham Central, this time 10-7 at Ivey-Watson Field.
The win came two days after Gainesville won its first region game of the season, 18-2 against Habersham Central, on Monday in Mount Airy. The third and final game of the season series between these two region opponents is Friday back in Mount Airy.
“I’m proud of how we’ve played, probably played our best baseball of the season the last two weeks,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “These guys are going to give it their best for seven innings every night.”
Despite three defensive errors, the Red Elephants had two big innings at the plate to come away with the victory.
Sophomore Dalton Kyle belted a two-run homer, his second of the season, for Gainesville in the bottom of the second inning. Then with a one-run lead in the sixth, Gainesville padded its lead with RBI-singles from Kyle, Jackson Kemp and Banks Griffith.
With only two seniors on the roster — A.J. Smallwood and Ross Tipton — its going to be a continual maturation process for the Red Elephants as it plays a straight region schedule up until the final game off the regular season against Madison County on April 22.
“I feel like we’re doing well, especially as young as we are,” said Kyle, who finished the game 3 for 4. “We’ve just got to start doing the small things better.”
Kyle’s home run for Gainesville put it ahead 4-2 in the second inning after Smallwood reached when he was hit by a pitch. His longball came just a few pitches after a failed attempt at laying down a bunt.
Banks Griffith, who also went 3 for 4 for Gainesville, reached on a stand-up double after the homer, and scored on a double steal with runners on the corners.
Down 6-2 in the top of the fifth inning, Habersham Central would mount a rally as a result of a field error on Gainesville’s first baseman. With two outs, a pop fly in foul territory on the first-base line was dropped by the Red Elephants’ player.
The Raiders would capitalize on the extra opportunity as Brice Austin completed his at-bat with a single off the outfield wall. Lead-off hitter Brandon Mitchell brought in both base runners with a three-run homer, cutting the Red Elephants lead down to 6-5.
The Red Elephants padded its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, starting with Tipton’s sacrifice fly. Then Gainesville received the three-consecutive, run-scoring hits, a good sign to Kemp that his squad will be able to move past mistakes.
“These are smart kids on this team and they want to get better,” the Red Elephants’ coach said. “We had 12 or 13 hits tonight, but also left a few on.”
Following the three-run second inning, Gainesville added two more runs in the third, with RBI hits by Charlie Wall and Cale Conley.
After scoring the pair of runs, Gainesville stranded three runners on base.
Kemp knows the three losses against second-ranked Winder-Barrow were competitive, falling in two of the games by just one run. Winder-Barrow won 3-1 against the nation’s third-ranked Huntington Beach (Calif.) in a national tournament Wednesday at Carey, N.C.
“I feel like we could have easily taken 2 of 3 against Winder-Barrow,” Kemp added.
After this week, Gainesville has three-game region series against Lanier, Dacula and Apalachee remaining in the regular season, in the hunt for one of the top seeds to the playoffs.