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Travelers fall short in extra innings
Bray Bishop takes a lead off first base during the second inning of the Gainesville Travelers Wednesday afternoon game with the Macon Giants at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex in Flowery Branch. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times
Gainesville Travelers head coach Chad Stephens called Wednesday’s 10-7 loss to the Macon Giants the longest game he’s ever coached.

“By far,” Stephens said.

The Travelers and Giants battled for 16 innings and over five hours before Macon was decided a winner in the Great South League game at Hog Mountain Sports Complex in Flowery Branch.

After Gainesville (6-10) tied the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning, neither team produced a run until the Giants scored three in the top of 16th without a response from the Travelers.

“It’s tough coming out when you’ve been off for such a long time and not seeing action,” said Stephens, whose team has not played in a week.

The game centered around the pitching efforts of both teams from the beginning of the game until the end. While Macon starter Johnny Shuttlesworth kept Gainesville hitless until the fourth inning, Travelers starter and North Hall High grad Josh Wright pitched seven innings with seven strikeouts.

Gainesville High grad Justin Fordham managed the mound from the ninth until the 16th inning, pitching eight innings, seven scoreless, with seven strikeouts.

“Josh Wright pitched really well to start the game,” Stephens said. “Justin Fordham came in and gave us eight strong innings in relief.”

Solid pitching couldn’t keep the Travelers from facing a deficit early in the game. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second inning off an RBI double by Jesse Martinez.

Gainesville remained hitless until the fourth inning, when Gainesville High grad Zach Bennett made contact for the first time, doubling. He scored later in the inning when East Hall grad Ken Wise walked with the bases-loaded, tying the game. Brian Cash also scored on a fielder’s choice, giving the Travelers a 2-1 lead.

Gainesville scored two more runs in the fifth inning, both on wild pitches.

Macon tied the game with a three-run seventh inning highlighted by Tyler Hicks’ two-run triple.

After the Travelers’ two-run eighth inning gave them a 6-4 lead, Macon scored three runs in the ninth inning to take a 7-6 lead, the go-ahead run coming off Shuttleworth’s RBI single.

Forced to regain the lead in the bottom of the ninth, Gainesville’s Brauncey Jenkins scored an RBI single to tie the game, forcing extra innings.

“I liked how the guys fought back through the entire game,” Stephens said. “They kept coming back and played hard.”

But the extra innings weren’t as kind to the Travelers, especially the 14th inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs, only to strike out three straight times to end the inning without the winning run.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ bats remained quiet during the extra innings, until Garrett Deason hit a leadoff home run, followed by Shuttleworth’s RBI single later in the inning. Reno Malay also scored on a passed ball, securing a three-run lead and the eventual win.

Gainesville looks to rebound from the loss when they visit the Augusta Nationals at 5 p.m. today at Augusta State University. It’s the first of 13 games in 10 days.

“It’s going to be a long haul,” Stephens said. “Hopefully our pitching will hold out and we’ll be ok.”
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