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High school baseball: Aaron Attaway, aggressive baserunning push Flowery Branch past Winder-Barrow
Flowery Branch's Aaron Attaway (15) throws against Winder-Barrow on March 13, 2023 at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex. Photo by Bill Murphy

As prominent as home runs and extra base hits have become in the game, Flowery Branch, and Aaron Attaway in particular, demonstrated that there’s still a place for old-school baseball in their Region 8-5A game against Winder-Barrow.

The senor right-hander gave a masterful performance on the mound, while the Falcons manufactured the runs they needed in a 4-1 victory Monday at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex.

Attaway (2-1) needed just 73 pitches, 53 for strikes, in going the distance, allowing just two hits and an earned run with five strikeouts and no walks, and added a timely RBI hit at the plate late in the game.

Meanwhile, three of his team’s four runs were came without the ball leaving the infield as Flowery Branch (8-6, 1-1 in region play) dispatched the visiting Bulldoggs (7-7, 1-1) in just an efficient hour and 37 minutes.

“It starts with our pitching, and Aaron was just fantastic,” Flowery Branch coach Joey Ray said. “(Fellow senior right-hander) Mason (Compton) couldn’t have been any better (last) Friday night, but we were on the opposite end (of a 2-0 loss at Winder-Barrow), when we had a couple of two-out hits go against us.

“(Monday) night, Aaron just took the ball with us obviously needing a W, and just pounded the strike zone, kept his pitch count down. When you do that and he defense is on their toes, … it all starts with them. And we challenged the seniors a little bit last week because we’ve been through a little bit of a lull the last couple of weeks. Some of it is it just it happens from time to time, but I really put a lot of this on the seniors, and the seniors did a great job (Monday).”

Two of those seniors came to the forefront after their classmate Attaway retired Winder-Barrow on just five pitches – and it would’ve been just three pitches if not for a two-out error – in the top of the first.

Compton and Kade Smallwood roped back-to-back two-out doubles off Bulldoggs starter Layton Pruitt to put the Falcons in front 1-0 after one complete inning.

An inning later, Flowery Branch added to the lead when Austin Bourrie was hit by a pitch and eventually came around to score thanks to three wild pitches to make it 2-0.

That would turn out to be all that Attaway needed despite giving up a solo home run to Ryan Ford in the top of the third.

The only other baserunners he gave up came on Noah Anderson’s single in the second and when he hit Carson Royal in the fourth, though the latter was eliminated when Jackson Freeman gunned him down trying to steal to end the inning.

“I had great defense behind me. I trusted them,” Attaway said. “That motivates me more to pound the zone and keeps everything alive. That’s my main objective as a pitcher. I’m not going to go out and try to strike (everybody) out because it can get the defense kind of lazy. I want everybody involved. It creates good team chemistry.

“Sometimes, I get a little too (involved) attacking the one, but it worked out (Monday) night. It was a good day.”

Still, the lead was just a single run, with Flowery Branch managing just two more hits over the next five innings after the first-inning doubles by Compton and Smallwood, and stranded seven runners over the first six frames.

But in the bottom of the sixth, the Falcons used some aggressiveness on the basepaths to buy themselves a little insurance.

Riley Mitchell hustled out of the box on a chopper to the left side to leg out an infield single with one out, and immediately stole second before advancing to third when the throw got away.

That brought up Attaway, who got a bunt down on a safety squeeze, which Mitchell timed perfectly to not only score to make the lead 3-1, but also confuse the Winder-Barrow defense long enough for his teammate to beat the throw to first for another single.

David Miller then laid down another quality bunt to sacrifice another insurance run into scoring position.

That run scored when courtesy runner Antonio De La Torre advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then came plateward when the throw to third got away for the second error of the inning to give the Falcons more breathing room at 4-1.

“We have some kids who are athletic and can do some things,” Ray said. “We don’t have a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but we have guys that are smart and play hard.

“In that situation, obviously when you’re up, you can be a little more aggressive. We try to put pressure on defenses when we can. Sometimes it’s difficult. Last Friday night, we tried, but just couldn’t get anything going. (Monday) night, we were able to take advantage of a few of those situations.”

Mitchell finished the night 2-for-2 with two stolen bases and a run scored to lead the Flowery Branch offense, while Smallwood was 1-for-1 with the RBI double and was hit by a pitch twice.

Compton and Kyle Adamec each added a hit for the Falcons, who are back in action Wednesday when they welcome 10th-ranked Jefferson for a region game at 5:55 p.m.

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