The Flowery Branch baseball team was productive at the plate throughout Friday afternoon’s non-region game against Starr’s Mill, but the Falcons committed a few too many defensive errors, leading to a 10-6 defeat at the hands of the Panthers. The loss extends Flowery Branch’s (10-10-1) losing skid to a season-long four straight games.
“Our pitching was good enough, and we hit the ball well enough today to give us a chance,” Flowery Branch coach Joey Ray said. “But our defensive mistakes and our base-running mistakes, we just couldn’t overcome them.”
It wasn’t all bad from the Falcons.
Andrew Armstrong went 3 for 3 with a double on the day, knocking in a pair of RBIs, and Flowery Branch kept things close against a Starr’s Mill team that is among the best in the state, carrying a 19-3 record into Friday’s game.
Ray said he intentionally loaded the team’s non-region schedule with difficult opponents, and Armstrong said playing against tougher teams has helped the team grow and get better throughout the year.
“It helps us get better for playoffs, and we have a really hard region,” Armstrong said. “It helps us get used to it more than just playing easy teams and beating up on them. I think it helps us out a lot.”
Starr’s Mill jumped out to an early lead by capitalizing on Flowery Branch mistakes. The Panthers put one run on the board in the second inning with a bases-loaded walk, and scored another two in the third off a wild pitch and an overthrow to first base.
Flowery Branch responded with an RBI from Kaleb Freeman and a sac fly from Armstrong to cut the lead to two runs, but two more fielding errors in the fourth inning led to three more runs for Starr’s Mill as the Panthers continued to keep the Falcons at arm’s reach.
Armstrong’s run-scoring double to deep center field in the fifth put the momentum back in Flowery Branch’s favor, but the Falcons left base runners in scoring position stranded in each of the final three innings and never managed to fight their way back into the game.
Ray said the youth of the team was largely to blame for the mental lapses on defense, but he believes games such as Friday’s can be useful in building confidence and coming together as a team. The Falcons gave up six runs on errors, wild pitches and bases-loaded walks in a game they only lost by four.
Outside of those mistakes, Flowery Branch went toe-to-toe with a Starr’s Mill team that can play with just about anybody else in the state.
“We really struggled early on last year, and it wasn’t until this point where we started really gaining some confidence,” Ray said. “And I feel like if these young guys can just taste a little success, they’re going to take off, and they’re going to be really difficult to beat.”