Gator baseball advances to second round

Left-handed batter Cody Kauffman nails a hit. 

PHOTO: Contributed

By Jake McMillian

jacob@msgr.com

 

The Gatewood baseball club seems to have hit its stride as the Gators march through the latter half of their season.

On Friday, May 4, the Gators were hosts to the Loganville Christian Academy Lions, a familiar foe, for the first round of the state playoffs. Gatewood dominated the Lions, winning the first game of the doubleheader 3-1 and the second game 14-1 to secure a series sweep.

Gatewood’s bats were cold in game one but the Gators used nifty base running and a couple of Loganville throwing errors to manufacture runs. The Gators opened the scoring in the first inning, plating one runner. They added runs in the third and fourth inning to build a 3-0 lead that was sufficient for the victory. The Lions closed the deficit to two runs in the sixth inning, but the Gators slammed the door to take game one.

Brayden Hill’s recent success on the mound continued in game one. In 5 2/3 innings, Hill allowed just one run on seven hits, striking out four. Dylan Humphries relieved Hill for the final inning and a third, pitching shutout baseball. 

Although LCA outhit the Gators 9-4, Gatewood converted on key opportunities as a blowout game two awaited.

The Gators thrashed Loganville in game two to take the series. If the bats needed game one to warm up, they were on fire in the doubleheader finale. Gatewood outhit the visitors 13-4; four different Gators recorded multiple hits. Senior Reid Sasser had a career day, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Jake McMillian recorded his first home run of the season with a two-run blast in the third inning.

Prior to the sixth inning, Gatewood led, 7-0. However, the dam broke and the floodwaters poured, and Gatewood rallied a whopping seven-run sixth inning to enact the mercy rule. Four of the seven runs came from one swing from the mighty bat of Hill.

Though Hill has consistently racked up extra base hits the entire season, his first home run of the season came with the bases stacked. The home run was the granddaddy of them all, the walk-off grand slam, more affectionately known to the baseball world as the “Grand Salami.” If the home run was not seen as it rocketed out of the park, it was definitely heard. Hill’s shot was the final nail in the Lions’ coffin.

“I had a 3-1 count at that point, so I knew he had to give me a fastball, or else he would be walking in a run,” Hill said. “He gave me one, and I didn’t miss it.”

Humphries added onto his relief efforts in game one with a start on the mound in game two. He lasted four innings, allowing one unearned run on four hits while striking out four. Junior Preston Brown closed the final two innings. LCA had no answer for the lanky southpaw, who blew fastball after fastball by the Lions in a hitless outing. Of his six outs, four were strikeouts.

Due to a graduation conflict, the Gators will compete in a road playoff doubleheader against Tiftarea Academy on Wednesday in Chula, Georgia. If the teams split the doubleheader, a game three tiebreaker will not be played until Saturday, May 12.

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