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Red Elephants bounce back, crush Clarke Central
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Gainesville’s Anthony Carrera crosses home plate beside Clarke Central catcher Cole Melancon on Monday at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville. - photo by Jared Putnam

The Gainesville High baseball team didn’t take long to shake the sour taste from Saturday’s loss to Buford.

Coming off a shutout in which they struck out 15 times, the Red Elephants rode a five-run second inning and a six-run fourth to a 12-2 five-inning victory against Clarke Central on Monday at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville.

Gainesville improved to 9-2 overall and 4-0 in Region 8-AAAAA play ahead of Wednesday’s 5:55 p.m. game at Cedar Shoals in Athens.

“It was a good win for us, bouncing back after the Buford game,” Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp said. “Proud of our guys for getting back in region play. That puts us at 4-0 in the region, so we’re where we want to be in the region.”

Caleb Whitenton earned the pitching win and blasted a three-run home run to left field in the second inning. Whitenton threw four innings, striking out four with no walks while allowing two earned runs on three hits and a hit batsman. He was 2 for 3 with an RBI double in addition to his homer, finishing with four RBIs.

The latest mound effort for Whitenton (3-1) came on the heels of his one-hit shutout last Wednesday against Heritage.

“He got out there and competed, did well, especially pitching on short days’ rest,” Kemp said.

The win also capped a season sweep of the Gladiators following an 8-4 victory Friday in Athens.

Gainesville centerfielder Anthony Carrera had a two-run home run in the fourth. Carrera also doubled and scored in the first, and he finished with three runs scored.

“I know we can do better than what we did today because we still had two errors,” Carrera said.

Red Elephants first baseman Banks Griffith reached on a two-base error to start the bottom of the second, advanced to third on a groundout and came around to score when Carrera reached on an error. Gainesville shortstop Fedrick Cardona, who had been hit by a pitch, scored on a passed ball to make it 3-0 with two outs in the bottom of the second.

After the error that put Carrera on base and Michael Curry’s walk, Whitenton’s homer pushed it to 6-0.

Carrera said Gainesville’s non-region schedule has prepared the Red Elephants well to excel in 8-AAAAA play.

“Region is here,” Carrera said. “So we’ve got to step it up.”

The Gladiators (7-4, 1-3) cut into the margin when Chandon Haynes doubled, advanced on a groundout and came around on a Noah Fairburn single in the top of the third.

Then, Trip Thompson’s solo home run to left field to lead off the top of the fourth pulled Clarke Central within 6-2.

That closer score was short-lived. Cardona’s double led off a bottom of the fourth that brought 12 Red Elephants to the plate. All told, Gainesville banged out five hits and drew three walks while the Gladiators made their fifth error of the night during the six-run outburst.

Carrera’s two-run homer also scored Cardona to make it 8-2. Curry beat out the throw for an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a Jonathan Gettys single. Consecutive two-out singles from Griffith and Mikey Gonzalez, the second driving in a run, extended it to a 10-2 game.

Drew Wright’s walk to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth chased Clarke Central starter Lawson Landers from the mound. Landers surrendered nine hits, two walks and two hit batsmen in 3 2/3 innings to take the loss.

Terry McHugh moved from first base to the mound but couldn’t stop the bleeding for the Gladiators. He threw two wild pitches that scored runs and allowed two walks before being pulled from the mound without recording an out.

Garrett Holland was finally able to put an end to Gainesville’s marathon inning by inducing an inning-ending fly ball to left field to leave the bases loaded.

Junior right-hander Jack Langford tossed a scoreless fifth inning for the Red Elephants, with his only base runner coming after a dropped third strike and errant throw to first.

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