It was Patrick Henry’s pitching that secured the Flowery Branch senior a college scholarship, but if it weren’t for his bat, the Falcons may not still be playing baseball this season.
With the Falcons down 6-5 in the seventh inning, the senior hit a two-run home run to defeat Riverwood 7-6 in Game 3 of the Class AAA state tournament. The win advances Region 7-AAA champion Flowery Branch (26-3) to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
"That was probably the biggest thing to happen to me in four years of high school baseball," Henry said.
In addition to his outstanding plate appearances, Henry remained the No. 1 starting pitcher for the Falcons in the series, picking up his 11th win of the season in Game 1.
"He’s been our go-to guy all season," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler said. "This season he has matured, he has cut down walks and he’s thinking one or two pitches ahead now."
Henry faces his toughest opponent yet when the Falcons play host to Stephens County on Wednesday. The Indians boast prospective MLB draft pick Ethan Martin as their starting pitcher.
"There’s a lot of pressure going up against a player of that caliber," Henry said.
Henry, however, also has a future in baseball ahead of him. Last November, he signed with Valdosta State University. Although the Blazers expressed interest in him as a pitcher, Lawler believes he could also be an everyday position player after batting .581 during the regular season this year.
"They liked him as a pitcher, but they don’t know what kind of hitter they’re getting," Lawler said. "He has played great shortstop for us, but he would be better suited as a third baseman for them."
Despite earning the scholarship before the season even began, Henry has remained a hard worker as he prepares himself for baseball at the next level. While working on perfecting his breaking ball and changeup, he improved his hitting by training with former Gainesville High standout and current Atlanta Braves minor leaguer Jon Mark Owings.
"He still came in from day one this season and worked his tail off," Lawler said. "By signing his scholarship before the season started, he could still focus on getting better since he didn’t have to worry about impressing anybody."
Amongst the region championship, playing in the second round of the state playoffs and preparing for college baseball, Henry is still able to relax.
"This year was a lot of hard work, but I had a lot of fun, the team had a good time and we were stress-free," Henry said.