Normally, Flowery Branch loves to play small ball.
However, the Falcons simply ran into an opponent who played it better in their Region 8-5A game against Loganville.
The defending state champion Red Devils lived up to their name by bedeviling the host Falcons with constant pressure on the basepaths and maximizing every ball put in play, and even taking bases on some that weren’t.
Combined with a complete-game effort on the mound by Jordan Davis, it added up to a 5-2 Loganville victory Friday night at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex.
Loganville (12-7, 5-0) stole seven bases on the night, five of which came during a two-run third inning, and cashed in four wild pitches from Flowery Branch (11-8, 4-3) pitchers to help beat the Falcons at their own game.
“They did exactly what we tried to do, which is put pressure on the opponent,” Flowery Branch coach Joey Ray said. “(Loganville) just did a better job of it (Friday) night. … They ran into outs, and we just didn’t take them. They made a lot of high-risk plays that paid off.”
An example of what Ray was talking about came in the top of the second after what at first appeared to be an excellent defensive play by Flowery Branch starting pitcher Mason Compton.
With Gage Fullerton on second after a one-out single and stolen base, Compton leapt to snag Tucker Segars’ high chopper over the mound.
Fullerton was off with contact, which drew a throw from Compton to third instead of taking the more sure out at first.
And when the Loganville first baseman slid under the tag at the bag, the Red Devils had runners at the corners with one out, which they parlayed into a 1-0 lead on Jordan Johnson’s RBI on a safety-squeeze sacrifice bunt.
Flowery Branch responded with some power in the bottom of the inning, as Jackson Freeman and Riley Mitchell went back-to-back with solo home runs to vault the Falcons into a 2-1 lead.
However, they found scoring opportunities much more difficult to come by against Davis, who scattered six hits and the two earned runs with only one walk and nine strikeouts in going the distance.
And Loganville quickly regained the lead in to the top of the third by putting more baserunners in motion.
Jaylen Jones (2-for-4) led off with a single and stole both second and third before coming home on James Beaver’s infield single to extend the Red Devils’ lead to tie the game at 2-all.
Beaver then quickly took off for second and made it during Sherman Johnson II’s at bat, and then when the latter walked, both were off and running again on Compton’s next pitch on a double steal.
And when that pitch went to the backstop, Beaver never stopped running and took advantage of the large amount of foul territory behind the plate to come all the way around to score to put the Red Devils back in front at 3-2.
“We have a lot of young players, and we talk about, especially against a team like Loganville, we don’t have to play perfect. We just can’t make a lot of mistakes. One or two and you have a shot, and we made about four or five. … We had wild pitches with guys on base … that are not ruled errors, but they are. … That’s what pressure does.”
Loganville added single runs in the fourth and seventh, again aided by pressure on the basepaths, to take a 5-2 lead.
Meanwhile, after Davis had cruised through the much of the first six innings outside of the two homers, the Flowery Branch offense finally started to show some life in the bottom of the seventh.
Freeman was hit by a pitch with one out, Mitchell legged out an infield single and pinch hitter David Miller drew a walk to load the bases and bring the potential winning run to the plate with only one out.
However, Davis induced a first-pitch pop out to second from Austin Bourrie and caught pinch hitter Chase Hammock looking to close out the game.
Mitchell had a big day at the plate for the Falcons, finishing 3-for-3 with the homer and an RBI, while Freeman, Kade Smallwood and Bourrie each added a hit.
The two teams close out the two-game region series Monday at Loganville, with first pitch set for 5:55 p.m.