Gainesville senior Sims Griffith passed the biggest pitching assignment of his high school career with flying colors.
Three days after the Red Elephants (8-2, 3-1 Region 8-AAAAA) lost to Flowery Branch, Griffith took the ball and threw four innings of scoreless relief to secure a 4-3 victory in the final meeting of the season against the Falcons on Monday at Ivey-Watson Field.
A middle infielder on an everyday basis, Griffith, who finished with 48 pitches, entered the game down 3-1 and didn’t allow any hits while striking out four.
To put Griffith’s accomplishment into perspective, he’d previously thrown a total of only three innings before moving to the mound from shortstop to pick up the region victory over the Falcons.
“I knew I just had to get in there and throw strikes,” said Griffith, who is signed to play at Furman University.
Griffith said it was crucial to salvage a season split against the Falcons considering how many other talented programs play in Region 8-AAAAA.
“You never want to lose two early in the region schedule, especially to a good team like Flowery Branch that isn’t going to make many mistakes,” Griffith said.
Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Drew Satterfield delivered the go-ahead run for the Red Elephants with a bloop single to shallow center field that plated courtesy runner Drew Wright.
Caleb Whitenton got on with a lead-off single for the Red Elephants when a Flowery Branch middle infielder let a grounder get past him.
Luke Maddox got on next for Gainesville with a grounder that the third baseman knocked down in front of him, but he wasn’t able to field it for the throw to first.
Dylan Gibeau threw a complete game for the Falcons (7-4, 3-1), allowing only six hits with 10 strikeouts.
After scoring two runs in the top of the first, Flowery Branch led until Gainesville tied it up at 3-3 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Harrison Styles started the rally when he reached after being hit by a pitch, and Griffith followed with a double down the right field line.
With a pair of runners in scoring position, Michael Gettys drove in the first Gainesville run of the fifth with a sacrifice fly to deep right field, followed by catcher Michael Curry’s RBI single to score Griffith.
“That was huge to pick up this win against Flowery Branch,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “They have two great pitchers they threw at us (in the series).”
In the Falcons’ final at-bat, Maddox made a diving catch in left field for the first out of the inning, which allowed Gainesville to avoid any damage after Gibeau reached on an error at third with one out.
Gibeau was sharp through the first four innings, holding Gainesville to a pair of hits by outfielder Brandon Sewell: a solo homer to lead off the second inning and a one-out single in the fourth.
However, the momentum started to trickle in Gainesville’s direction with its two runs to tie the game in the fifth.
Fresh off his three-hit, complete-game victory during Friday’s outing in South Hall, Falcons lead-off hitter Jonathan Hughes reached on a walk to start the game, and scored on an infield single by Trey Groves.
Flowery Branch then loaded the bases after Hughes’ walk. Gibeau drew a two-out walk, and Chad Kahlert was hit by a pitch with two strikes in the count to make the third base runner.
On Groves’ infield single to second, the ball was fielded but the toss to the shortstop covering second base was wide, resulting in a second run scoring.
The Falcons again loaded the bases in the second when Stephen Skeggs was hit by a pitch, but Gainesville got out of the inning unscathed. Flowery Branch scored its final run in the third, as Deuce Davidson came up with a two-out single and scored on a base hit by Bailey Godfrey.
Gainesville next plays Venice (Fla.) on Wednesday at the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
The Red Elephants will play six games in eight days as part of a field of 11 elite high school programs from Georgia, Florida, Colorado, California, Tennessee, Alabama and Arizona.
Flowery Branch continues region play Wednesday against Cedar Shoals in Athens.