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Prep baseball: Red Elephants split series with Westminster
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Listen to Gainesville's Robby Hefflinger discuss The Red Elephants' first-round series against Westminster in the Class AAA state tournament.
Gainesville had its first taste of playoff action this season, and will have more of it today.

The Red Elephants (21-6) split the first two games with Region 5-AAA’s Westminster (19-5) in a best-of-three series in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament on Friday night at Ivey-Watson Field.
Gainesville won the first game, 4-1, but fell to the Wildcats, 4-0, in Game 2.

The series will be decided at 1 p.m. today at Ivey-Watson Field. The Red Elephants will try to avoid their second straight first-round exit after dropping two games to Sandy Creek last season. Westminster looks to advance to the second round for their second consecutive year.

“We have nine seniors that are 21 outs away from the second round or 21 outs away from ending their high school career,” Gainesville coach Wayne Vickery said. “It boils down to one seven-inning game.”

Robby Hefflinger pitched a complete game on the mound in the series opener for the Red Elephants, striking out eight and allowing one run.

“I was focused on keeping the ball low,” said Hefflinger, who opened the game with four scoreless innings. “I knew that if I pitched it high in the zone they would hit it.”

Hefflinger helped his own cause at the plate by going 2-for-3. His double in the first inning was followed by Zach Bennett’s home run to right field, giving Gainesville an early 2-0 lead.

“We’re a good team when we get a good start, so I was helping the team hit the ball well early,” Bennett said.

Bennett finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Despite totaling six hits in the second and third innings, the Wildcats were unable to score. Hefflinger’s pitching and a solid Red Elephant defense led by Justin Fordham and Blaine Martin stranded four runners during the two innings.

“I thought we played good defense today,” Vickery said. “If you had told me that we would be giving up five runs all day then I wouldn’t have thought we would be playing (today).”

Westminster earned its first run of the day with a solo home run by Will Miller in the fifth. Miller was 2-for-3 in the game and Clay Gibson was 4-for-4 with a double for the Wildcats.

Gainesville countered in the same inning with a run of their own when Fordham singled to score Max Joseph. The Red Elephants scored again in the sixth inning when Adam Parker’s sacrifice fly scored Andy Edmondson.

The second game began in favor of Westminster when Miller and Ross Conway each homered off Bennett in the third inning, giving the Wildcats an early two-run lead.

Westminster extended its lead with two more runs in the fourth inning off an RBI triple by Jay Lively. Lively scored on an error on the next play.

“I didn’t hit my spots and they hit the ball well in the second game,” Bennett said.

The Red Elephants had their best scoring opportunities after doubles by Bennett in the fourth inning and Joseph in the fifth, but both runners were left on base.

Jake Taylor pitched all of Game 2 for the Wildcats, striking out six and allowing only four hits.

“Westminster kept us off stride and kept the ball away from us when we were trying to pull it,” Vickery said. “We have to get more than four hits (today) or they’re going to beat us.”