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Flowery Branch baseball struggles early in 9-2 loss to Heritage

Falcons give up seven runs in first three innings of region matchup

POSTED: April 8, 2014 10:38 p.m.

A rough start to a crucial region game made the Flowery Branch baseball’s team playoff hopes a little less comfortable.

The Falcons gave up seven runs in the first three innings against Heritage on Tuesday at Hog Mountain Sports Complex, eventually falling 9-2 to the surging Patriots.

The loss drops Flowery Branch (10-7, 5-3 Region 8-AAAAA) down the region standings to half a game behind fourth-place Winder-Barrow. Meanwhile, Heritage (13-6, 7-3), which completed the season sweep over the Falcons, moves into the region’s top three alongside Gainesville and Loganville.

The Falcons have two favorable series on deck against Apalachee and Clarke Central, but with meetings against Loganville and Winder-Barrow remaining, coach Scott Myers needs a quality April out of his team.

He didn’t see it Tuesday.

“If we come out with focus like that, it isn’t going to matter who we play,” Myers said. “We can’t continue to fall behind, we can’t continue to not play the game the right way. And right now, we’re not playing the game the right way.”

Flowery Branch managed nine hits, but left 10 runners on base and didn’t score until Andrew Nolt’s two-run double in the sixth inning.

By then, the Falcons faced a steep uphill battle to get back into the game, and Heritage’s productive start proved too much to overcome.

“We were behind there early, and I don’t think we came out ready to play. We weren’t ready to play.”

The Falcons managed to put the bat on the ball, but struggled to find home against Patriots pitcher Tyler Holcombe. The righthander pitched six innings, giving up two runs with four strikeouts.

Not flashy numbers, but nevertheless a gutsy outing that included escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth before giving up Nolt’s double in the same situation in the sixth.

“He didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but pitchers have those nights,” Heritage coach Jason Borcherding said. “He pitched on guts, and were in a position that if we could make contact we could make some plays.”

His run support came early and often, as Heritage — a team batting .260 on the season — used strategic baserunning to jump out to a 7-0 lead, helping offset just four hits.

The Patriots led 2-0 through one after Ryan Sutton (2 for 2) scored from third on an error, followed by Matt Studdard’s RBI single that scored Domenic Bazzani, who used two more Flowery Branch miscues in the inning to get to third.

Heritage plated three more runners from third using steal attempts from first, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. Israel Zackery (2 for 4) connected for an RBI single to score Bazzani and give the Patriots a 6-0 lead.

It was enough to chase Falcons starting pitcher Dylan Gibeau, who recorded two strikeouts and three walks in 1 2/3 innings of work.

“We’re not a great offensive team,” Borcherding said. “In order for us to scratch runs, we have to put pressure on defenses using the bunt game and running, and doing anything we can to be able to create some open ends for us.”

Sutton ripped a single to right of Flowery Branch reliever Aaron Miles to score Justin Roberson in the third inning, padding the Patriots’ lead to 7-0. Anthony Williams singled to score Freddy Bryant in the fifth for another run.

That’s when the Falcons finally found some life, with Gibeau doubling and Stephen Skeggs following with a single to give their team its first scoring chance before both players were stranded.

Flowery Branch continued to pressure Heritage in the sixth by loading the bases with one out, but Holcombe struck out the last two hitters to escape unscathed.

He wasn’t as lucky one inning later, as Nolt connected for a gapper to score Trey Groves and Trevor Roof.

Nolt was the only Falcon with multiple hits, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

“He swung it well and he came out ready to play,” Myers said. “He was motivated.”

Jonathan Hughes slapped a line drive two at-bats later, only to watch Roberson make a diving catch at third to end the inning.

Heritage added a run in the seventh on Sutton’s single to score Bryant, who scored a team-high three runs.

Bazzani pitched the ninth inning, retiring the side and striking out two.


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