Gainesville’s baseball team was charged up for Tuesday’s state quarterfinal doubleheader against Dalton at Ivey-Watson Stadium.
After splitting the first two games, Red Elephants senior Sam Carpenter expects his squad to be even more fired up for the deciding third game at 4:30 p.m. today in Gainesville.
“This is playoff time,” said the left-handed Carpenter, who earned a complete-game victory in Game 1. “It’s a lot more hype this time of year.”
In Game 1, Carpenter was only touched with a solo home run as top-ranked Gainesville (27-5) earned a 7-1 victory. Dalton evened the series with an 11-7 victory in the nightcap.
Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said he’ll likely start A.J. Smallwood on the mound in the deciding game of the series.
The Red Elephants also have several players who could log innings, including Collier Scott, who threw the first two innings of the second game. According to Kemp, Carpenter is likely done pitching for this series after logging 92 pitches in the opener.
Based on a coin flip at the end of the first two games, Gainesville will be playing as visitor on its home field for the series finale. The winner of this series will face Houston County in the best-of-three series semifinal series, starting Monday.
The 2015 state runner-up Red Elephants are used to playing in pressure situations. Kemp has confidence his team will be ready for the Game 3 environment this time around.
“This is the path we want to be on,” said Kemp. “I know these guys will be ready to battle again (today).”
Gainesville’s senior southpaw was steady, striking out five and throwing around jams with a pair of Dalton (24-8) runners on base in both the fifth and sixth innings.
The only run he allowed was a solo home run by Catamounts pitcher Cole Shelton as they took a 1-0 lead in the third inning of Game 1. Once Carpenter recorded the final out of the game, he let out of a celebratory yell into his glove with it up to his mouth, knowing all he’s battled through in his high school career.
“It felt great,” said Carpenter, who missed his entire junior season due to injury. “I’ve been pitching for eight years now and through a lot of ups and downs.”
Carpenter was also the catalyst for Gainesville’s offense in the opener with a double to lead off both of its run-scoring innings. In the sixth inning, Carpenter’s double to the right-field corner gave way to five run-scoring singles for the Red Elephants.
Smallwood, Farris Mance, Jared Smith, Banks Griffith and Fedrick Cardona all drove in runs with singles in the sixth inning for Gainesville.
After Carpenter doubled in the fourth inning, Collier Scott and Mance both drove in Gainesville runs.
Gainesville got around a jam when Dalton put two runners on in the sixth inning, thanks to a great defensive play. With two outs, a sharply hit grounder was knocked down by Scott at third base. He got to his feet and threw to first in time for the final out of the inning.
DALTON 11, GAINESVILLE 7 (GAME 2): The Red Elephants chipped away twice at a six-run deficit, but came up short in the second game. After falling down 6-0 after two innings, Gainesville battled back with three runs in the third inning. Then, trailing 9-3 in the fourth inning, the Red Elephants scored twice more.
Carpenter, who also doubled in the first inning of the nightcap, had a solo homer over the fence in right field in the fifth inning. Leading 9-7 in the bottom of the sixth, Dalton’s J.P Tighe roped a two-run, stand-up double to the outfield fence.
In the third inning, Griffth had a two-run double for the Red Elephants, while Carpenter had a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Vinny Vega doubled in each game for the Catamounts, who are making their furthest playoff run since 1999. Dalton is young, playing without a senior in its starting lineup.
Maddux Houghton reached base in all three plate appearances of the second game for Dalton.
Carpenter reached base of 5 of 8 plate appearances on the day for Gainesville.