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Travelers overcome early deficit to defeat Augusta
Gainesville Travelers catcher Mitch Pittman talks with pitcher Bray Bishop early in the game against the August Nationals. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times
FLOWERY BRANCH —The Gainesville Travelers proved Wednesday night that it’s never too late to turn a baseball game around.

Despite falling behind twice, including a nine-run deficit in the first inning, the Travelers still defeated the Augusta Nationals 22-15 at Hog Mountain Sports Complex in Flowery Branch.

Gainesville (7-16) relied on a recent hitting tear to produce 21 hits in the win.

“The offense is starting to come around at this part of the season,” Travelers coach Chad Stephens said. “We had 11 runs last night on about 15 (hits) against Athens, so we’re starting to see the ball better and have better approach at the plate.”

Before Gainesville could display their recent hitting success, they had to endure a nine-run first inning by the Nationals, who scored seven runs before the Travelers recorded their first out. Ryan Healey led Augusta with a two-run single.

Gainesville answered with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by Brauncey Jenkins’ successful attempt to steal home, which started a five-run night for the Travelers’ lead-off hitter. Flowery Branch grad Patrick Henry also had an RBI single in the inning.

Gainesville added five more runs in the second inning to decrease the Nationals’ lead to one. Tripp Moore and Bryan Cash each had two-run doubles in the inning. Moore also had an RBI single in third inning and finished the game three runs and three RBIs.

“A lot of teams could have given up there,” Stephens said. “It was big for us for to put up three runs in the first to show that we weren’t rolling over.”

Augusta scored two runs in the third inning and one in the fifth to take a 12-9 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning, where Gainesville would take it’s first lead of the night with a four-run inning. Mitch Pittman and Henry each had RBI singles as the Travelers left the inning leading 13-12.

After allowing two runs in the top of the seventh, Gainesville secured the win with an eight-run seventh that had every player in the lineup score. Gainesville High grad Zach Bennett highlighted the inning with a grand slam over the right-field wall that gave the Travelers a lead they kept until the end of the game.

“I just worked on finding a good pitch,” Bennett said. “I haven’t really had many good games here, but it’s not different here than anywhere else, so I just had to give it all I had.”

Bennett finished the game 2-for-3 with three runs scored and seven RBIs. Cash led the Travelers with four hits and also scored three runs. Moore and Pittman added three hits for Gainesville.

Lewis Fraser recorded the win in relief for the Travelers after starter Bray Bishop left the game with a fracture and high sprain in his right ankle.

Gainesville and Augusta play doubleheaders at 2 p.m. Saturday in Augusta and 2 p.m. Sunday in Flowery Branch.
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