Flowery Branch at North Paulding
When: 4:30 and 7 p.m. today; tomorrow at 6 p.m. if necessary
Where: North Paulding High School, Dallas
Record: Flowery Branch, 18-8, No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAAAA; North Paulding, 21-7, No. 3 seed from Region 5.
What’s next: The winner will face the Lee County-Houston County winner next Tuesday in the state quarterfinals.
North Hall at Blessed Trinity
When, where: Today, 4:30 and 7 p.m., at Blessed Trinity in Roswell; tomorrow, 5 p.m., if necessary.
Record, seeding: North Hall, 20-8, No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAA; Blessed Trinity, 21-7, No. 1 seed from Region 6.
What to know: Blessed Trinity is hitting an impressive .360 with 18 home runs as a team this season, while also boasting an impressive .468 on-base percentage. The Titans, though, will face a tough task in North Hall, which has found a steady stream of pitching later in the season.
Despite losing the top three pitchers from last year’s state runner-up team, the Trojans’ pitching staff has stifled opponents. In the first-round sweep over Sonoraville, Corbin Lewallen and Brandon Delong combined for 12 strikeouts while allowing a total of just seven hits in the 8-1 and 11-0 wins.
Both teams enter tonight’s series opener riding momentum. Blessed Trinity has won seven of its last eight games, while North Hall has won 13 of its last 15 games, including the two playoff games.
North Hall defeated Blessed Trinity in the state semifinals last season, with North Hall taking two of the three games in the series, including the “if necessary” game, 4-0.
What’s next: The winner plays the Central Carrollton-Islands winner in the state quarterfinals next Tuesday.
Sequoyah at Gainesville
When, where: Today, 4 and 6:30 p.m., at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville; tomorrow, 5 p.m., if necessary.
Record, seeding: Sequoyah, 19-9, No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAAAA; Gainesville, 22-6, No. 1 seed from Region 8.
What to know: After a slower-than-expected start to the regular season, the Red Elephants have won 13 of their past 14 games, including a two-game sweep (7-4, 12-1) of Tucker in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Sequoyah, meanwhile, enters the second round following a series win over Rome.
The postseason series win was the Chiefs’ first since 2008, when they beat Woodward Academy in a three-game series.
The postseason win continued an impressive turnaround for coach Joseph Jones and the Chiefs, who finished with a 2-24 record in 2012.
Gainesville’s Michael Gettys, a projected first-round draft pick in next month’s MLB Draft, will likely be the Game 1 starter for the Red Elephants after allowing only two earned runs on five hits while striking out 14 in his victory against Tucker.
Caleb Whitenton will likely start Game 2, after tossing five innings of one-hit baseball in the second game against the Tigers last Friday night.
What’s next: The winner plays the Harris County-Star’s Mill winner next Tuesday in the state quarterfinals.
St. Pius X at Buford
When, where: Today, 4:30 and 7 p.m., in Buford; tomorrow, 5:55 p.m., if necessary.
Record, seeding: St. Pius X, 17-5, No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAA; Buford, 25-2, No. 1 seed from Region 7.
What to know: Buford coach Tony Wolfe said his players haven’t forgotten their first-round loss in three games to St. Pius X a season ago, saying it left “a bittersweet” taste in their mouths. Tonight, the top-ranked Wolves get their shot at redemption when they host the Golden Lions in a best-of-three series.
The Wolves enter tonight’s series after posting a pair of 14-0 victories in their first-round sweep of North Murray last Friday night, and they have now won three straight games by a combined 42-0 since losing to White County, 2-1, on April 23.
St. Pius earned a two-game sweep of North Oconee, 14-4 and 5-4, in the first round and has won seven straight games by a combined score of 89-13.
Buford is loaded with talent, both on offense and defense. In the series sweep of North Murray, Georgia Tech commit Joey Bart and Nick Wilhite each drove in six runs to play their part in an offense that accounted for 22 hits and 28 runs in two games.
On the hill, five pitchers combined to strike out 19 batters in 10 scoreless innings, although it was Clemson commitment Jake Higginbotham and fellow junior Connor Bennett who earned the victories.
What’s next: The winner plays either Pike County or Southeast Bulloch in the state quarterfinals.
Compiled by Ed Hoooper
Scott Myers believes the Flowery Branch baseball team is playing with a renewed sense of confidence following a stretch of recent victories.
Despite securing the Region 8-AAAAA’s final playoff seed, the Falcons head into today’s second round series at North Paulding having won five of their past six games, which includes a commanding two-game series sweep of Dunwoody last Friday night.
“This group, I think we’ve been more talented in past years, but this group, man, something we say a lot is just find a way. These guys just seem to find a way,” said Myers, the Falcons’ head coach. “But yeah, I just think we are playing with confidence.”
Flowery Branch’s confidence stems back to a win over Loganville in the final week of the regular season. The Falcons (18-8) trailed multiple times, before scoring three runs in the seventh inning to secure an 11-10 win, the team’s first win over the perennial power Red Devils under the guidance of Myers.
The Falcons followed that win up with a two-game sweep of Winder-Barrow on the final two nights of the regular season, officially securing the region’s final playoff seed with a 15-5 and 3-2 win.
“You had some guys step up in different spots and do things maybe they hadn’t done,” Myers said. “I just think we carried on top of that. I think we’re playing with a really good bit of confidence.”
That confidence carried into the playoffs, when the Falcons found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the sixth inning of Game 1 at Dunwoody. They proceeded to find their form and score six runs with one out in the inning to earn the victory.
The Game 1 victory was huge for the Falcons, according to Myers, as the pressure in Game 2 was placed on Dunwoody in a win-or-go-home situation.
Once again, the focus tonight will be placed on winning Game 1 against a North Paulding team that upset second-seeded Pope in a three-game first-round series.
“I think that is tough, to have to come back and win game two,” Myers said. “We jumped out (last Friday) to a big lead. I think we scored four runs in the second, which took a little ease off of us.”
Flowery Branch will send Jonathan Hughes to the mound in Game 1 tonight and Dylan Gibeau will pitch for the Falcons in Game 2. The duo will face a tough challenge in a North Paulding team that Myers said can “swing the bats well.”
Hughes was solid in his Game 1 start last week against Dunwoody, earning a complete game victory. Gibeau was equally as good, striking out 10 batters in a complete game effort.
“I don’t want to change too much from the first series,” Myers said. “The first series worked out pretty good for us. I am, probably like a lot of coaches, superstitious.
“Gibeau has been kind of up and down (this season). Jonathan has been pretty consistent, as far as on the mound. Gibeau has had three really good games; he’s pitched two OK games and two not so good games.
“If those good games come out, I like our chances.”
At the plate, Myers said he plans on keeping the majority of his lineup the same after shuffling the order throughout the regular season. A major part of the shuffle, though, came after Spring Break, when the Falcons lost a starter due to an injury, forcing Cam Davis into the starting lineup.
Davis has embraced the challenge as the Falcons’ No. 9 hitter, which was evident in the Game 2 win over Dunwoody when the senior went 3 for 4.
“Cam Davis has kind of come on,” Myers said. “We lost a kid at spring break, and after spring break we kind of had to find the next guy who was going to step up and do a good job. Cam has embraced the nine whole doing what he does. He had a great series at Dunwoody on Friday. I hope he can continue to do some of those things.”
North Paulding enters tonight’s series after winning the final two games of its first-round series against Pope, which won Game 1 5-4. North Paulding bounced back with a 9-2 win in Game 2 and an 8-6 win in the series finale.
If the teams split tonight’s doubleheader, they will play Thursday at 6 p.m. in the “if necessary” game, which will decide which team will advance to the state quarterfinals to face either Lee County or Houston County.