Soaking wet after a five-inning stint on the mound Monday, Caleb Whitenton did everything possible to ensure Gainesville got back into a first-place tie with Loganville in the Region 8-AAAAA standings.
The Red Elephants’ starting pitcher threw three-hit ball, even through a steady rain that started in the second inning, and reached base in all four plate appearance as part of a 7-2 win over Loganville at Ivey-Watson Field.
The win was almost a must to stay in the region title hunt after Gainesville lost the first game against Loganville 4-0 last Friday.
“That was Caleb’s best start of the season,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “We had to have him tonight.”
With the win, Gainesville (14-3, 8-2 Region 8-AAAAA) is now even again with Loganville (13-4, 8-2) in the top spot. The Red Elephants have six remaining region games on the schedule, starting with a trip to Winder-Barrow on Wednesday, followed by a home game against the Bulldoggs on Friday in Gainesville.
Whitenton’s pitching was in spite of the sloppy field conditions, primarily on the infield dirt, that gradually deteriorated before the game was called after Loganville’s at-bat in the top of the sixth inning.
The South Carolina-bound right-hander racked up 10 strikeouts, three in the third inning, and kept his footing on the wet ground well enough not to hit any Red Devils batters. The only damage Whitenton allowed was a two-run homer by Loganville’s Timothy Elliott in the fourth inning.
“I was just out there concentrating on throwing strikes,” said Whitenton, who earned his fifth win of the season.
Once Whitenton left the mound, Mikey Gonzalez came in and got through the sixth without allowing a run to end the game. Whitenton moved over to first base for the final inning and came up with a scoop of a throw out of the mud for the second out of the inning.
Gainesville got 11 runners to first on a free pass. Seven hitters were hit by a pitch and four Red Elephants batters drew a walk.
Whitenton also had Gainesville’s biggest hit of the game, a two-run home run over the fence to straight-away center field. He drove in Michael Curry, who reached on a double over first base that rolled to the fence in the right-field corner.
After his homer, Whitenton reached when he was hit by a pitch in the second inning and also got on with a pair of walks.
The second walk he drew loaded the bases in the fourth inning. After Whitenton’s final walk, Anthony Carrera (2 for 3) walked to bring in a run.
In the fifth inning, the Red Elephants loaded the bases when Gonzalez, Drew Wright and Fedrick Cardona were all hit by a pitch. Gainesville catcher Michael Curry slapped a grounder to shortstop, slowed by the wet infield, that brought in its final run of the game.
In addition to his good showing at the plate, Carrera made a diving catch from center field when he was running hard toward the infield.
Monday’s game was designated by Gainesville ‘An Evening For Eli.’ Twelve-year-old Eli Ligon of Gainesville was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma on March 6. Before the game Ligon, a University of Alabama fan, threw out the first pitch to Blake Sims, who is a Gainesville High grad and played quarterback for the Red Elephants and recently finished his career at Alabama.
The family has created an online GoFundMe page to raise funds for Ligon’s treatments. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/pray4Eli. Money can also be contributed at any local branch of United Community Bank.