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High school baseball: Flowery Branch sweeps Heritage-Catoosa to advance to second round of Class 4A state playoffs

The Flowery Branch baseball team took advantage of a late rally in Game 1 to win 4-2 and a dominant performance in Game 2 for a 9-0 victory to sweep Heritage-Catoosa in a doubleheader in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs Tuesday in Ringgold. 

With the win, the Falcons will take on Cartersville in another best-of-three series, starting May 2 in Cartersville.

“The boys were just feeling it,” Flowery Branch coach Joey Ray said of Tuesday’s performance. 

The Generals put their ace on the mound for the opening contest, and with fastballs clocking in the low 90s, according to Ray, Flowery Branch struggled to get much going until the final inning. Still, Flowery Branch starter Zander Sechrist kept things close, as the Falcons came into the seventh trailing 2-1.

Thanks to a leadoff single and a couple of walks, Flowery Branch eventually loaded the bases when Jake Beaver fought his way to a walk in a 12-pitch at bat. The sequence put the Heritage-Catoosa starter over his pitch count, forcing him out of the game. The Falcons cleared the bases to go up 4-2 behind a pair of singles hit off the Generals’ reliever, and the score would hold, as Flowery Branch claimed Game 1. 

“They threw a really talented kid at us,” Ray said. “But our kids just battled. They stuck with it.”

Things came easier in the second game. 

Behind strong pitching from Florida State commit Andrew Armstrong and an offense surging with confidence, the Falcons scored six runs in the first three innings. 

The series victory sets up a difficult matchup against a Cartersville team that has won 11 consecutive games and is coming off a Class 4A runner-up finish in last year’s state tournament. Still, Ray said his team is not going to be intimidated by the daunting second-round draw.

“Cartersville is a great team, but the biggest concern is not our opponent; it’s ourselves,” he said. “If we can take care of the little things, we think we have a shot.”

CHEROKEE BLUFF SPLITS WITH RINGGOLD: The Bears won the nightcap, 2-1 in eight innings, after dropping the first game 4-0 on Wednesday. With the split, Game 3 is at 5 p.m. today in Ringgold.

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