GAINESVILLE -- Despite nailing its third consecutive sweep in the playoffs, there was little celebration for the Gainesville baseball team Tuesday at Ivey-Watson Field.
"Our goal wasn't to get into the final four," Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said.
The Red Elephants looked very business-like in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals, taking 7-0 and 13-2 victories over Starr's Mill to complete a sweep in a series they never trailed and looked superior in all phases.
The Red Elephants (26-6) next will take on a Houston County team that has also produced three straight sweeps in the semifinals on Monday at Ivey-Watson Field, start time to be determined.
Gainesville pitchers yielded just two runs on eight hits in the quarterfinals. The Red Elephants offense pounded out 20 runs on 14 hits, including three home runs, and the defense committed just one error to four for the Panthers. They even played a little small-ball, scoring five runs in the series on wild pitches and swiping eight stolen bases.
"I thought we played very well in all phases," Kemp said. "I thought we left some runs out there but other than that we did what we wanted to do."
Talk on the street coming into the playoffs was that the Red Elephants (26-6) were vulnerable to left-handers. Starr's Mill started two against Gainesville. Kemp wasn't sure he would believe that scouting report.
"I don't know but we've played six playoff games, won six, and six lefties have started against us. You tell me," he said as shrugged his shoulders.
Michael Gettys set the tone in Game 1 with a first inning home run at the plate and getting the complete-game win on the mound, striking out 12.
Chandler Newton got the win in Game 2, coming on in relief for Caleb Whitenton, who left in the first inning with some forearm tightness. Newton, making his first playoff appearance, went 3 2/3 innings allowing no runs in his longest outing in over a month.
Game 1: Gainesville 7, Starr's Mill 0
Gettys set the tone on the mound from the start, striking out Patrick Mullins on three pitches. He retired the Panthers in order in the first, and the Gainesville offense quickly went to work against Starr's Mill starter Adam Goodman.
Sims Griffith reached on an error and then moved to third on a Luke Maddox groundout. He scored on a wild pitch and then Gettys cranked a long home run to left on the next pitch for a 2-0 lead.
"I had my best BP session of the season before the game and I'm really comfortable and seeing the ball well right now," Gettys said.
But Gettys, a senior, said one game or series is not what they are playing for at this point.
"It's nothing less than a state championship this year," he said. "We were very disappointed the last couple of years (in which GHS reached the Class AAA semifinals in 2012 and Class AAAAA quarterfinals in 2013). We should have done better and that's our goal this year."
The Panthers mounted a rally in the top of the second, getting a pair of runners on with two outs but Gettys fanned Joe Gruszca, his fifth in the first eight batters, to end the inning.
It then quickly turned into a pitchers duel. Gettys retired 10 of the next 12 Panthers batters, stranding four runners while striking out eight through five innings.
Goodman also settled down, retiring 10 of the next 13 Red Elephants through the fourth inning, stranding three runners and fanning six.
Gainesville finally got something going again in the fifth. Maddox reached on a perfect bunt single and went to third after a stolen base and error on the throw. Gettys walked and stole second and then Caleb Whitenton followed with a one-out single, scoring Maddox. Courtesy runner Chandler Newton then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
The Panthers again tried to answer. They got the first two batters on to start the sixth on singles by Eric Sutliff and Goodman. But Seth White grounded into a fielder's choice at third, and Gettys struck out Garrett Houston and Connor Dillon to get out of the jam.
The Red Elephants blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth. They loaded the bases when Drew Wright was plunked, followed by back-to-back singles by Griffith and Maddox. Gettys struck out but the third strike was a wild pitch and Wright and Griffith both scored on the play. Maddox later scored from third on a second wild pitch to push the lead to 7-0.
Gettys finished with 12 strikeouts and walked just one while scattering five hits.
Maddox and Whitenton each had two hits in Game 1. Griffith, Gettys, and Wright all had one hit. Griffith and Maddox each scored twice as the top three batters for Gainesville went 4-for-10 with a home run, one RBI and scored six runs.
Game 2: Gainesville 13, Starr's Mill 2, 5 inn.
The Red Elephants again got off to a quick start. Griffith singled to lead off the game, Curry walked with two out, and then Whitenton hit a long three-run home run to center for a 3-0 lead.
This time, however, the Panthers answered back. Sutliff walked with one out and Goodman followed with a towering two-run home run to right to cut the lead to 3-2.
Then the Red Elephants faced their first major adversity of the playoffs. Whitenton left the game three pitches later, holding his forearm. He went to his usual first base spot but the injury leaves a hole in the pitching staff.
"There was some tightness and we'll see how things are in the next few days," Kemp said. "We wouldn't be here without him pitching and in the field. He wanted to stay in and he seemed fine in the field."
Newton replaced Whitenton on the mound. He retired the first nine batters into the fourth inning while the offense continued to pound on the Panthers pitching staff.
In the second inning, the Red Elephants blew things open. Fedrick Cardona walked and Wright singled and Griffith knocked in Cardona for a 4-2 lead. Maddox dropped a beautiful sacrifice attempt that was misplayed, allowing Wright and Griffith to score after an errant throw. Gettys then followed with a long, two-run home run to center, his second of the series, to make it an 8-2 lead.
Gainesville added two more runs in the third when Cardona and Wright both walked and later scored on a pair of wild pitches -- the seventh and eighth of the series by Starr's Mill pitching.
The Panthers' best threat against Newton came in the fourth. Dillon singled and Adam Weisheit walked to put two runners on with just one out. But Newton got Kyle Moseley on a groundout and Luke Ossana on a lineout to left to end the inning.
Newton, who had not pitched in the playoffs and for almost a month total, went 3 2/3 innings allowing just one hit and fanning four.
"He pitched great. Can't say enough about his effort. We really needed it," Kemp said.
Gainesville put the series out of reach in the fifth. Drew Satterfield reached on an error and scored on a Wright groundout. Curry followed later with a bases loaded single scoring Cardona and Griffith for a 13-2 lead. Curry's hit came after the Panthers intentionally walked Gettys to load the bases with two out.
Harrison Styles relieved Newton and survived a bases-loaded jam with one in the bottom of the fifth by getting White to strike out and Dillon to line out to left to end the game and the series.
Starr's Mill (23-11) came into the series as Game 3 warriors, having advanced in dramatic fashion in the first two rounds in deciding Game 3s, but Gainesville made sure they would not get another shot Tuesday.