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Prep baseball: Ackerman ready to take the mound in playoffs for Falcons

POSTED: May 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Flowery Branch High's Cody Ackerman stepped into the falcons' starting rotation early in the season due to the injury of a teammates and has flourished in the role helping the Falcons' earn the No. 1 ranking in Class AAA.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch senior Cody Ackerman isn’t going to knock your socks off when you see him pitch.

The Falcons’ No. 2 starter lacks the luster of a towering pitcher with a mammoth wing span that can deliver a blazing fastball in the 90s.

In fact, he’s quite the opposite.

At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, Ackerman is one of the smallest players on Class AAA No. 1-ranked Flowery Branch’s roster, and his fastball tops out in the mid-80s.

But at least he’s got a pretty good sense of humor about things.

"Yeah, I’m definitely not the biggest guy," said Ackerman, who will start for the Falcons (24-2) in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series today against Riverwood. "And I’m not going to pull an Ethan Martin (Stephens County’s ace) out there and throw it in the mid and upper 90s."

Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler reserves the right to hand the ball to someone else with the season hanging in the balance of a three-game set against the Raiders, but the Falcons coach has made it clear that Ackerman deserves to have the ball in his hand in clutch situations.

In his first season as a starting pitcher Ackerman has a 6-1 record with a pair of saves, including recent region wins against North Hall, No. 2 playoff seed Gainesville (20-5) and No. 4 playoff seed White County (15-11).

He’s been a key part of Flowery Branch’s 16-game winning streak that ended the regular season and helped claim the program’s second region title in baseball.

Ackerman is hoping to close out the best-of-three series today after senior right-hander, and Valdosta State signee, Patrick Henry throws in Game 1.

"The thing about Cody is that he’s been effective in every game he’s pitched," Lawler said. "I feel good about having Pat and Cody on the mound (today)."

And Ackerman can hit, too.

Out of the No. 9 spot in the order he drove in the winning run with the bases loaded against Lumpkin County to secure the Region 7-AAA title for the Falcons last Friday. Flowery Branch’s coach says Ackerman’s best attribute at the plate is that he rarely strikes out.

"He’s the best two-strike hitter we have on the team, which is huge if we have runners on base," Flowery Branch junior Greg Palmer said.

"We know he’ll get a hit at least one of every three trips he makes to the plate," Lawler added.

Lawler said the plan at Flowery Branch this season was to keep Ackerman in the bullpen, where he made 16 appearances as a junior. The Falcons coach said he already had a three-deep rotation in place with Henry, Matt Pilgrim and Matt Kerul.

But Kerul, a Marshall signee, went down with a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder, which opened up a spot in the starting rotation.

Lawler only had one reservation about moving Ackerman, his strongest relief pitcher, into the starting rotation for a start against North Hall on April 2.

"What were we going to do if he was only able to go five or six innings?," Lawler said.

Ackerman made sure Lawler didn’t have the chance to second guess the move. The newly converted starter threw a complete game and allowed only one earned run en route to a win that helped solidify his spot in the rotation.

"I thought it was going to be a temporary thing starting when Matt got injured," Ackerman said. "But when I found out it was permanent, then I knew I had to live up to what my team expected out of me."

Ackerman credits Falcons pitching coach Cris Carpenter for streamlining his pitching motion. He says it was once a habit to try to throw from a side-armed motion. Carpenter helped him keep his arm more upright in his delivery to get a straighter line on his pitches.

"I just try to listen to everything that coach Carpenter has to say," Ackerman said. "He helps me keep the tension down on my arm and my pitch count low."

The difference shows in Ackerman’s pitch selection with a basic rotation of a fastball and a couple of basic breaking ball variations. He’s abandoned his trick pitches of the past like a "slurve," which he used to try to finesse the hitter.

As a senior, Ackerman sticks with what works best: Getting ahead in the count and staying low and away from the hitter.

"When I’m on the mound, I’m composed when I get into tough spots," Ackerman added.

If Flowery Branch advances in the playoffs it will face the Stephens County/Sandy Creek winner in the second round next Wednesday.



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