Gray’s Homer Lifts Hoots Past Braves in Game 1

by Daniel Wilson

Gainesville – Cameron Gray’s two-run homer in the eleventh inning lifted the Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots (14-16) to a 7-5 victory over the Gainesville Braves (19-10) in Game 1 of the Sunbelt Semi-Finals at Ivey Watson Field Saturday night.

With the win, Columbus now leads the best-of-three series 1-0 and can advance to the Sunbelt Championship in their inaugural season with a win at Golden Park in Game 2 Monday night.  A win by Gainesville would force a Game 3 Tuesday night at Ivey Watson Field.

With one out and the score tied 5-5 in the eleventh, Zac Rice singled to center field, and then Rice crushed a 2-1 pitch from Zach Valentine (4-4) over the right field wall to put the Chatt-a-Hoots up 7-5.  Rice finished the night going 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs at the plate.

Gainesville jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first two innings, scoring one run on a wild pitch in the first, and then two in the second on a pair of bases-loaded walks.  The Braves looked to be in control of the game until the third inning, when a costly error with two outs extended the inning and allowed the Chatt-a-Hoots to score five unearned runs and take a 5-3 lead.

The score remained that way until the eighth.  With runners on first and third, Jarrett Burney hit a ground ball through the right side to score the runner from third and cut the deficit to 5-4.  The sophomore infielder from Reinhardt University led all Braves batters with three hits.

Still trailing 5-4 ninth, Carson Paetow hit a fly ball to shallow right-center that was lost in the lights by the second baseman for a lead-off double.  A wild pitch moved him to third, setting up Josh Shuler’s sacrifice fly to tie the game and send it to extra innings.  Neither side could push across the winning run in extras until Gray delivered his two-run shot in the eleventh. 

The Chatt-a-Hoots pitching staff accumulated 15 strikeouts to overcome 12 walks.  Clay Weatherly was effective in his second straight appearance after securing the relief-win against Atlanta in Friday’s Wild Card game.  The rising sophomore from Chattahoochee Valley tossed 3.1 scoreless, hitless innings, allowing only three walks with four strikeouts.  Austin Embrey (1-1) pitched a scoreless tenth and eleventh, allowing no hits two walks and four strikeouts to earn the win.

Halton Hardy tossed 4.1 relief innings for the Braves, allowing no runs on two hits with a walk and four strikeouts to keep his team within reach.

First pitch for Game 2 is at 7:05 p.m.

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