Posted: Monday, May 21st 2012 at 11:59pm
Baseball: GHS drops first game, storms back to force deciding Game 3 (VIDEO)
By Jeff Hart Staff
Gainesville's Hunter Anglin, right, and David Gonzalez celebrate with Luke Moore, left, after scoring during the Red Elephants' Game 2 semifinal win over Ringgold on Monday in Gainesville. The two teams split Monday's doubleheader 1-1 and will play a deciding Game 3 at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Gainesville.
GAINESVILLE – Anyone wondering how the Gainesville baseball team would handle adversity found out Monday.
After dropping Game 1 of its best-of-three Class AAA state semifinal series 4-3 to Ringgold, the Elephants responded with a 12-2 blowout win in Game 2 to send it to a deciding Game 3 Tuesday at Ivey-Watson.
First pitch for Tuesday’s Game 3 is scheduled for 3 p.m. The winner of this series will play the Columbus-Troup County winner in the state finals, beginning on Saturday. Columbus and Troup County split games on Monday and will also go to a deciding third game on Tuesday. Gainesville will play host to the state championship round if it advances.
The Red Elephants used an eight-run third inning to grab the lead -- and all the momentum -- in Game 2, highlighted by a grand slam from Stephen Mason. Michael Gettys scattered five hits the rest of the way to force Tuesday's deciding game.
Mason’s blast also ignited a heated exchange between players and coaches on both sides that is sure to provide the backdrop for an exciting finish to the series. All eight runs in the third were scored with two outs.
The Game 1 loss was the first of the playoffs and the season for Gainesville (32-1), and coach Jeremy Kemp said he was more than pleased with how his squad handled itself with the season on the line.
“They were relaxed and calm and came out ready for Game 2,” Kemp said. “Stephen got the big hit to give us some momentum and Michael (Gettys) did a great job of closing it out.”
Mason, who drove in one run but struck out twice in Game 1 with chances to drive in runs, said he was just looking to keep the inning going.
“It was rough in Game 1, especially knowing we had chances to win that one,” Mason said. “I was looking for something I could drive and I got a good pitch to hit. I thought that gave us a lot of momentum to win the game.”
In Game 1, both starting pitchers dominated in the early innings. Gainesville's David Gonzalez retired the first seven batters, including two strikeouts. Ringgold’s Corey Kafka was just as tough with a perfect game through three innings, including striking out the side in the second.
The Tigers broke through first in the third. A pair of one-out singles and then a ground out put runners at second and third. Kafka then helped himself, stroking a two-run single to left for a 2-0 lead, the first time Gainesville had trailed in the entire playoffs.
The Red Elephants trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the fourth on a RBI single from Hunter Anglin scoring Skyler Weber, who doubled to lead off the inning. But Anglin was gunned down at second trying to advance on a pop-up in foul territory to end the inning.
Ringgold quickly answered with two more runs in the fifth on a two-run double by Reed Walden for a 4-1 lead. Logan Bailey, the No. 9 hitter for the Tigers, was the key in both of their two-run innings with a perfect bunt single in the third and a walk to keep the inning alive in the fifth.
Gainesville came right back again with two runs in the bottom of the fifth on a lead-off home run from Gettys and a RBI single from Mason. But the Elephants were poised for a bigger inning when Mason came to the plate with the bases loaded and no one out after walks to Caleb Whitenton and Luke Moore and a single by Sims Griffith.
Gonzalez pitched well enough to win, allowing just five hits while fanning six in going the distance. Mason, Weber, Anglin, Gettys, Moore, and Sims Griffith each had one hit for Gainesville.
Kafka also went the distance for Ringgold in earning the win. He scattered six hits and struck out nine.
In Game 2, Gettys and Ringgold starter Adam Weldon dueled to a scoreless tie through the first two innings before Gainesville exploded.
Mason started the inning with a single and scored on a single by Anglin. Gonzalez and Gettys walked and then Whitenton, Moore, and Sims Griffith had consecutive singles to set the stage for Mason’s blast for an 8-0 lead. The Elephants added two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings, including a huge run when Weber scored from third on a balk for a 12-1 lead.
The Tigers (28-6) got a run in the third and then a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth before Gettys retired the final three batters to close out the win in five innings. He finished with five strikeouts.
Anglin will take the hill for Gainesville in Game 3, while the Tigers will counter with Austin Parrish. Neither pitched in the first two games and both coaches say they have plenty of arms at the ready for a shot at the state title series, which begins Saturday.
“Hunter is a big game pitcher and has been in this spot many times before. We feel very confident with him out there,” Kemp said. “When our backs have been against the wall he’s come through for us. I don’t know much about (Parrish) but I expect him to be solid and we’ll take the same approach at the plate we always do. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
-- NOTES: The 10-run loss for the Tigers was their first by more than two runs all season. All five of their previous losses had been by two runs or less, three by one run. ... Ringgold is trying to return to the finals for the first time since 2010, when the Tigers lost in two games to Columbus. ... The two runs allowed by Gainesvillle in Game 2 was the 23rd time this season the Red Elephants have held an opponent to two runs or less. ... Gainesville is looking to return to the finals for the first time since 2002, when the Elephants won the second of back-to-back titles.
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