Wednesday September 20th, 2017 9:27PM

Baseball: Griffith leads Gainesville fightback over Flowery Branch, 4-3

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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GAINESVILLE -- Hitting and defense, sure -- but Gainesville's Sims Griffith is hardly known for his performances from the mound.

That all changed with one clutch outing on Monday.

With his Red Elephants facing a 3-1 deficit to rival Flowery Branch, Griffith came on in relief in the fourth inning and provided a steady platform for Gainesville's eventual 4-3 fightback win -- the result knotting the season series with the Falcons after Flowery Branch took a 3-1 victory on Friday.

"I think I threw three innings total last year, maybe six," Griffith said. "I can't remember the last time I threw four innings in a game."

It was hard to tell as much thanks to Griffith's poise on Monday.

The senior held the Falcons hitless through 4 innings pitched, striking out four batters and yielding just one walk while facing just two batters more than the minimum.

"I just knew I had to throw strikes," Griffith said. "Flowery Branch is a tough team to play; they're a menace really. And we needed this one."

Griffith's pitching combined with late-inning hitting to overcome a stellar performance from Falcons starter Dylan Gibeau, who tossed a complete game and struck out 11 Gainesville batters -- but watched Drew Satterfield's sixth-inning single drop just in front of center fielder Stephen Skeggs to score Drew Wright for the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.

"That was a big hit for Drew. It was one of several good at-bats we had there late in the game," Red Elephants coach Jeremy Kemp said. "Of course we had a lot of bad at-bats there too. But I'm proud of them. They don't give up, and I put that down to senior leadership."

Griffith also helped spark the Gainesville (8-2, 3-1 Region 8-AAAAA) comeback at the plate, ripping a one-out double in the fifth that moved Harrison Styles to third. Styles then scored on a sacrifice fly from Michael Gettys to pull within 3-2 before Griffith came home on an RBI single from Michael Curry -- one of only six hits Gibeau allowed, just one of which came before the fourth.

That one was big, however, as Brandon Sewell drilled a home run in the bottom of the second to answer a two-run first inning from the Falcons. Sewell finished the game 2-for-3.

"Flowery Branch is a great team with two very good pitchers, and (Gibeau) was outstanding today," Kemp said. "That was a huge win for us."

With the way the Falcons (8-4, 3-1) started, it looked as though the visitors could be headed for the sweep, as Trey Groves laced an infield single that scored Johnathan Hughes and Matt McVey (courtesy running for Gibeau) for a 2-0 first-inning lead. Gainesville starter Chandler Newton avoided any more damage, however, and entered the third trailing just 2-1 after Sewell's bomb.

Yet the Falcons added to their advantage in the third when Bailey Godfrey produced a two-out single to score Chad Kahlert for a 3-1 lead.

It was all the scoring the Falcons would manage, and it proved too little in the face of Gainesville's late charge.

"You never want to lose two region games this early in the season, especially to a team like Flowery Branch that you know isn't going to make too many mistakes and trip themselves up," Griffith said. "We haven't really gotten our niche yet as a team, where we're just smacking everything. But it's coming."

Gainesville knows it will need its best over the next week -- and the remainder of the regular season for that matter -- as the Red Elephants travel to Cary, N.C. for the National High School Invitational tournament, facing powerhouse programs from around the nation.

"We're going to be completely tested," Kemp said. "I'm a little worried how our pitching is going to hold up facing so many games in a short span like that. But we're excited."

And there will be no rest upon the Red Elephants' return, facing Winder-Barrow (currently undefeated in region play) on March 31 on the road.

"The region is going to be crazy and tight," Kemp said. "We're going to be in a battle every game."

Flowery Branch will look to continue that battle and get back on track against Cedar Shoals on Wednesday in Athens.

-- NOTES: Deuce Davidson finished the game 2 for 3 from the plate for Flowery Branch, the only Falcons batter with multiple hits. ... Griffith got some big help from his defense in the top of the seventh when left fielder Luke Maddox dove to haul in a deep drive from Justin Seabolt for the inning's first out.
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