Things went south quickly in Monday night’s 5A-District 3 quarterfinals at Tiny Talbot Field.
Visiting No. 5 seeded Ridgeview (Orange Park) scored four runs in the top of the first inning and the Panthers eliminated No. 4 seeded Gainesville, 6-1, ending the Hurricanes’ season at 11-14.
“We didn’t play well, in any phase of the game,” said Gainesville coach Chris Malphurs. “We weren’t sharp.”
GHS starting pitcher Nate Kemph walked the first three batters he faced and then gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Alfredo Jimenez and Cody Holland for a 2-0 lead.
Kemph was pulled for Kellen Brown. However, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly by Austin Arrocha drove in the third and fourth runs, respectively, for a 4-0 Ridgeview (8-14) lead after just a half inning of play.
“They were a team that should have won way more games this year,” Malphurs said. “The slow start killed us.”
Additionally, Panthers’ starting pitcher Billy Girgis tossed 6.1 innings and allowed just one unearned run with only one walk and seven strikeouts.
“He just mixes it up,” Malphurs said. “He can throw whatever for a strike. He kept our guys off balance.”
The Hurricanes answered in the bottom of the first on an RBI single down the right field line by Andrew Pickles, but GHS wouldn’t score again.
“I thought they had more energy than we did, but we’re really not a rah-rah energy type team,” Malphurs said. “I just think a lot of things went against us tonight that we needed to go right.”
The ‘Canes got back-to-back singles by leadoff hitter Colton Kelly and Tyler Guarino in the third inning but failed to score. With no outs, Guarino got picked off at first for the first out and Girgis struck out Kemph to end the inning.
Ridgeview will travel to top seed Columbia (Lake City) for the district semifinals on Tuesday at 7 p.m.