Gainesville falls in state semifinals to Ringgold
It was a somber atmosphere after the Gainesville baseball team’s surprising 11-3 loss to Ringgold in the state semifinals on Tuesday.
The players leaned against the fence, caps pulled low. None seemed in any hurry to leave a field that they had given so much to this season. Even the coaches stood huddled for a few extra minutes before coming to share a few reluctant words with the attending media.
For a team that reeled off 31 consecutive wins before losing its first game of the season in the series opener on Monday, it was not how the script was supposed to end.
And, from where I’m sitting, it’s certainly not a script that fits this team.
All season, we watched as the Red Elephants knocked off opponents by nine and 10 runs on a regular basis. Only once did an opponent surpass five runs in a single game.
I never would have guaranteed a state championship to this team. There’s too much talent in the state to make that bold of a statement. But to see its season end in this fashion just doesn’t feel like a fitting send-off for the successful senior class.
Six seniors grew with the program, culminating in one of the most successful seasons in school history.
Coach Jeremy Kemp had plenty to say about the class after the loss on Tuesday.
“It’s been 10 years since our last final four and they’re the reason,” he said of the seniors. “I give them all the credit.”
And they deserve it.
In their four seasons, Gainesville won 99 games, reached the quarterfinals in 2010 and the semifinals this season. It recorded the first undefeated regular season in school history, and continued its run of blowouts through three rounds of the state playoffs.
The unfortunate fact is that its opponent played better on Tuesday. Plain and simple.
The Red Elephants had a couple of issues on the basepaths, one that prevented a two-run inning from being a lot bigger. After pitcher Hunter Anglin hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, Ringgold tightened up and got out of a two-on, no-out jam without any further damage.
Then, in the bottom half, it plated eight runs against the Red Elephants, sending 12 batters to the plate and effectively ending any hopes of a comeback. Only once this season had Gainesville given up more runs than that in a single game.
Despite not being able to keep up with Ringgold, though, it’s just not the lasting memory anybody should have of this team or its senior class.
The legacy, instead, is what the seniors did to help put this program in the position it was in this year: One game away from playing for a state title.
And they leave it in capable hands. Six starters return from this year’s team, including two of the three starting pitchers.
“We’re excited about them,” Kemp said. “We’ve got a good nucleus coming back.”
This loss is going to sting for a bit, I imagine. But something tells me this script hasn’t quite been finished yet.
David Mitchell is a sportswriter for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesdmitchell.