The Gainesville baseball team played well in spurts on Thursday night at home against state-ranked North Marion (Citra).
Starting pitcher Nate Kemph struck out six batters through the first three innings, Tyler Guarino made a diving catch in center field and the host Hurricanes only trailed by three runs after four innings.
However, the visiting Colts (10-4) took advantage of their opportunities and got great pitching in a 7-0 win.
Those opportunities were created by five GHS errors and a critical base-running mistake by the Hurricanes.
“It’s hard to win a game when you get in your own way,” said Gainesville first-year coach Adrian Ramos. “The score definitely was not indicative of the game that we were watching. The pitchers, both of them did their jobs. Some costly errors there, they leave us with some tough decisions on the bases, and it just never felt into place.”
North Marion, which is ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 4A by MaxPreps, scored the only run it would need in the top of the first inning.
After Kemph struck out Rowan Quartararo to start the game, senior Cooper Jones doubled to right field and stole third base. Jones scored on a slow roller to second by pitcher Jake Tompkins, who beat the throw to first for an infield hit and an RBI.
The Colts added two more runs in the top of the second inning without a hit.
A walk and two GHS errors scored Tucker Jones and Bobby Gottuso for a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Tompkins rolled through the first 3.1 innings. The Daytona State College commit retired the first 10 batters that he faced.
“Jake did a great job tonight,” said North Marion head coach Dale Hall, who led the Colts to the Class 4A state championship game in 2021. “We build our program on pitching and defense and I thought we did both of those things extremely well tonight. I thought we could have swung the bat a little bit better but credit their pitcher. He kept our guys off balance all night long.”
Kemph kept the Hurricanes (4-8) in it early by striking out five of the first nine batters that he faced. He allowed just four hits and walked only one.
“It’s cleaning up the sloppiness, really,” Ramos said. “And capitalizing at the plate, making sure that we have productive outs.”
Gainesville’s best chance to score came after Colton Kelly’s single to left field broke up the no-hitter.
With two outs, Kellen Brown was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second.
Guarino hit a ball deep in the hole behind the second base bag. Jones made a great play to keep it in the infield, but Guarino reached on an infield hit.
However, after the throw was late, first baseman Karson Lindsey fired it across the diamond to third base where they picked off Kelly who was too far off the bag.
“That’s one of those situations, we’re down 3-0 and it was hard to get baserunners going and anything across the board,” Ramos said. “It looked like a seeing-eye single and I’m thinking let’s score right now and the guy makes a fantastic play. I’m still proud of the boys for fighting to the end. They definitely didn’t quit after that.”
North Marion scored two runs in an inning without a hit twice and finished with seven runs on only four hits.
“We play an aggressive style of baseball, we’re going to get picked off but we take some chances, we’re going to play some percentages and take what they give us,” Hall said. “But I think us applying a little bit of pressure early maybe caused a few rushed throws and we were able to get some runs off of those but the way we’re swinging the bat right now. We’re just going to try and create it any way we can.”
In the bottom of the seventh, relief pitcher Dylan Roberson walked Guarino. However, Roberson struck out the next three batters to end the game.
North Marion, home of Mr. Baseball’s Deric Fabian, improved to 10-4. The Colts will host Gainesville on Good Friday, April 7, at 6:30 p.m.
GHS, which will travel to Belleview on Friday night at 7 p.m., has been shut out in back-to-back games this week, falling 1-0 at home to Trenton on Tuesday.
“It’s time to put some runs up on the board,” Ramos said. “We’ll turn the page on today and get ready to play tomorrow.”