Sims Griffith got the fireworks display started, and Brandon Sewell finished it off.
Sewell hit a walk-off three-run home run to rally the second-ranked Gainesville baseball team to a 6-3 win over Apalachee in the Region 8-AAAAA opener Tuesday night at Ivey-Watson Field.
Sewell’s blast over the left field fence capped a productive bottom of the seventh inning for the Red Elephants (6-1, 1-0 region), who trailed 3-2 with only three outs remaining in the game. It was an inning kick-started by a game-tying, leadoff home run by Griffith.
“If we keep it close and we play our baseball, we can beat anybody,” Sewell said. “That is just how we do. We’ve been down before. ... We knew Sims was going to come through. He’s the hottest hitter on the team right now. We knew he was due for one soon.”
While it was Sewell’s home run that ended the game, Griffith played a major part in Gainesville’s rally. The starting shortstop pitched the top of the seventh inning and earned his first win of the season on the mound, holding Apalachee (4-4, 0-1) to just one hit.
Griffith also laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Drew Wright into scoring position in the fifth inning. Wright was able to score two batters later when Michael Curry singled, tying the game at 2-2.
“Sims gets us going,” Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “He’s our spark plug. He is going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Griffith finished the game 1 for 3 at the plate. Sewell finished the night 2 for 4 with two runs scored and three runs batted in. He started the fourth inning with a double to right field and later scored the Red Elephants’ first run of the game on an RBI groundout from Drew Satterfield.
The run cut Gainesville’s deficit to 2-1 at the time.
After Gainesville evened the score at 2-2 in the fifth, Apalachee regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning, when Joey White walked to start the inning and scored two batters later on a single from Kody Glausier.
Chandler Newton pitched six innings for the Red Elephants in a no decision. The Mercer University signee allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and struck out five. While Kemp said he was pleased with Newton’s pitching, the senior left-hander walked four batters and at times struggled with his control.
In the third inning, a pair of wild pitches from Newton allowed Apalachee’s Austin Leazer, who walked to start the inning, to advance to third base. He later scored on a single from Aaron Carley to give Apalachee a 1-0 lead.
Apalachee added another run in the fourth inning when Chance Rodriguez started the inning with a double and scored on a throwing error from Gainesville first baseman Caleb Whitenton, whose toss to third base went between Harrison Styles’ legs and bounced into the fence down the left field line.
Gainesville’s seventh inning came after several missed opportunities throughout the first six innings. The Red Elephants left a total of six runners stranded on base through the game’s opening six innings, including five in scoring position.
Kemp said he believed the inability to find a key hit early in the game was a result of being unable to practice over the weekend or on Monday due to heavy rain.
“I think both teams were struggling a little bit,” Kemp said. “(Monday) being rained out, Sunday was pretty wet and we gave them Saturday off. So we had three days off where we weren’t outside. I think it affected us a little bit.”
Gainesville and Apalachee will meet again at 5:55 p.m. today in Apalachee in the two-game series finale. The Red Elephants will start Michael Curry on the mound.