Gainesville junior Michael Gettys made one of his few mistakes Friday in the first inning on an 0-2 count.
He hung a curveball to South Carolina recruit and MLB prospect Travis Demeritte, who just missed a home run as the ball smacked into the center field fence for a two-out triple.
It was the closest Gettys came to allowing his first run of the season. After that, he was nearly flawless.
Gainesville opened its inaugural Region 8-AAAAA schedule with a 7-0 win over fellow region title contender Winder-Barrow, with Gettys pitching his fourth shutout in four starts, and his first seven-inning start.
“It felt good,” Gettys said of finally pitching a full game. “I felt like I was heating up toward the last innings. Everything was working for me tonight, and it felt good to pitch everything for a strike, and keep them off balance.”
His coach, Jeremy Kemp, said it was one of the most efficient seven-inning games he’s seen pitched, as Gettys threw just 78 pitches with eight strikeouts, three hits and no walks. And against the toughest opponent of the season, no less.
“That’s the best team we’ve played so far, and the best pitcher we’ve faced,” Gettys said. “It was a good challenge for us.”
The Red Elephants (9-0, 1-0) were more than up for the challenge of taking on a team in the Bulldoggs (6-2, 0-1), who finished second in Region 8-AAAA — which included nearly all of the current 8-AAAAA schools minus Gainesville — last season.
Red Elephants catcher Skyler Weber, a Georgia signee, jump-started the team in the first inning with a one-out home run to right field on the first pitch he saw from Demeritte.
“Travis Demeritte, he’s the real deal,” Kemp said. “Our strategy was to try to get a fastball you can drive, and Skyler got us going.”
The Gainesville batters, who tallied eight hits on the night, also made a point of trying to get Demeritte, who throws in the low 90s with his dominant fastball, out of the game early. The Red Elephants ended up tagging Demeritte for four runs, two earned, in four innings, at which point the Winder-Barrow senior had already thrown just under 80 pitches. Blake Oviedo pitched the final two innings for Winder-Barrow, allowing three more runs, one earned, as the Bulldoggs defense made four errors.
“I felt like we hit him pretty good,” Kemp said of Demeritte.
After Demeritte, who finished with eight strikeouts, quickly dispatched Gainesville in the second and third innings, the Red Elephants took advantage of a couple of errors in the fourth to score twice, the second time on an RBI single to right field by Jonathan Gettys.
Luke Moore powered the Gainesville offense, driving in Gettys from third base on a groundout to second to put Gainesville ahead 2-0 after one inning, and hitting RBI singles in both the fifth and sixth innings to extend the lead.
He finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs and a walk. Weber finished 2 for 3 with an RBI and, while Gettys finished just 1 of 4 with an infield single and near-home run that curved just foul, he stole both second and third base on two occasions and added three runs scored.
It was Gettys’ work on the mound, though, that everyone noticed.
“He’s good and we knew he was good,” Winder-Barrow coach Brian Smith said of Gettys, a Georgia recruit. “We knew we were in for a good challenge.”
And with the big win, Gainesville displayed right away why it can be a force in its new region, which also includes Hall County rival Flowery Branch and defending Class AAAA state champs Loganville.
“It’s one of, if not the toughest region in the state,” Smith added. “There are college and even MLB prospects all over the place.”
Two of those, Friday night’s pitchers and No. 3 hitters for their respective teams, talked briefly after the game.
“We were talking about how he almost got me in his first at bat, and then I almost got him back with a home run that went just wide,” Gettys said.
While neither was able to hit one out against the other, Gettys brought home the most important stat, his fourth win and Gainesville’s ninth.
Now the two, along with their squads, get another go at it, at 5:55 p.m. Monday in Winder for the second of the two-game series. The college and pro scouts, who flooded the area behind the backstop at Ivey Watson Field, will likely be following along.