RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Of all the numbers being examined before today's GHSA Class AAA semifinal baseball series between Ringgold and Gainesville, the most notable might be the 31-0 record for Gainesville's nationally ranked Red Elephants.
Undefeated teams at this time of the season are rare in Georgia. Calhoun entered the Class AA finals in 2010 with a perfect record before suffering a loss in the title-winning series at Cook County.
Gainesville has the lone perfect record in the state heading into the 2012 semis and hopes to join the 1988 Berrien County team as the only undefeated champions in GHSA history.
Ringgold coach Brent Tucker hopes that goal might turn out to be an advantage for his visiting Tigers in today's doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. A third game, if needed, would be at 1:30 Tuesday.
"I'm glad they're undefeated," Tucker said. "They're a solid team, ranked as high as third nationally in one poll, so we've got our work cut out for us."
Gainesville, which is not AAA's top-ranked team -- that is two-time defending champion and nationally ranked Columbus -- has three players who have signed or committed to play for the University of Georgia. One of those is senior pitcher David Gonzalez, who likely will start the first game today.
Sophomore Michael Gettys has been the Elephants' No. 2 starter. Combined, he and Gonzalez are 22-0.
Five regulars are hitting over .400, including leadoff hitter Stephen Mason, who has six homers and 30 RBIs with his .500 average.
Ringgold (27-5) will counter on the mound with senior ace Corey Kafka (8-2), who also leads the Tigers in batting, and 6-foot-5 right-hander Adam Weldon (9-1), who owns a playoff shutout and lost a 1-0 game in the quarterfinals against LaGrange.
Sophomore shortstop Slade Dale (.450) is the lineup's spark at the top of the order, while senior Allan Mochabee, who has five homers in the playoffs, is part of a lethal middle of the order.
Heritage coach Eric Beagles, whose team lost twice to Ringgold in the regular season and was swept in the first round of the playoffs in what has been Gainesville's toughest postseason competition, believes the series will be a close one.
"I was very impressed with them," Beagles said of the Elephants. "We saw their top two pitchers, and they're as good as anybody our region has. That poses a challenge on the mound to Ringgold, but they have hit the ball well all year.
"It's obviously two very talented teams, and both coaches maximize their use of personnel. You also can't overlook what Gainesville has done offensively, and I'll say they're one of the most aggressive teams I've seen."
None of that means much to Kafka, who believes the Tigers are in prime position to pull off the upset.
"I know," Kafka began with a wry smile, "Ringgold is the last team I would want to play if I was undefeated. We look forward to the challenge."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...