FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Flowery Branch Falcons have picked the wrong time to go on a losing streak.
After starting the year 14-3, the Falcons have now lost three straight, including Wednesday's 3-2 eight-inning loss to Madison County to end the regular season.
"We're struggling offensively," Falcons coach Scott Myers said after watching his team get only five hits against the Red Raiders. "We've got to go back to work and figure out things offensively."
Despite the offensive struggles, the Falcons had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when Kyle Famiano reached third base with only one out. But Famiano was stranded there, and that proved to be costly as the Red Raiders scored the game-winning run on a single by Steven Tiller in the top of the eighth.
Swinging the bats is especially important since Flowery Branch (14-6, 10-5 Region 8-AAAA) is set to play for a spot in the Class AAAA state playoffs. The Falcons, the No. 2 seed from Region 8B-AAAA plays the winner of Wednesday's Salem/Rockdale County game in a three-game play-in series April 27. Madison County, the third-seed from the same subregion, opens its three-game series with Heritage on April 27 in Conyers.
Both teams are focused on reaching the state tournament, but the Falcons wish they were playing baseball like they were throughout the season.
"Our bats are what we've hung our hats on," Myers said. "What we've done in the first 15 games is nothing like what we've done in the past three."
After scoring only three runs in its last two games, Flowery Branch's offense got off on the right foot with a pair of runs in the first inning. Brody Thomas scored the game's first run on a double steal that resulted in an errant throw home, and Logan Conley added the second run on an RBI groundout from Drew Miles.
But that was the end of the offense, as Madison County's Matt Savage settled down and retired nine straight batters, including six via the strikeout.
"He's going to have a shaky inning at some point, and this time it was the first inning," Madison County coach Charlie Griffeth said. "He usually settles in."
With Savage shutting down the Falcons, the Red Raiders' offense went to work, starting with a Zach Escoe single to lead off the fourth inning. Daniel Townsend followed a strikeout with a double off the left field fence to cut the deficit to one run. Hardman tied the game by scoring from second base on a fly ball hit by Jarrett Seawright.
Two weeks ago, when they were scoring 68 runs amidst a five-game winning streak, losing a lead would have been nothing for the Falcons.
Since seeing their losing streak snapped by a 4-3 loss to Rockdale County - a loss that might send them to Conyers for the play-in series - the Falcons' bats have gone quiet to the tune of just five runs in three games.
"I don't know the answer for why we're not hitting right at this moment," Myers said. "We scored early, but then we did nothing."
Flowery Branch has a week to get back into the swing of things offensively, and according to Griffeth, both teams shouldn't concern themselves with how they ended the regular season.
"It doesn't mean anything," Griffeth said. "Momentum in baseball is overrated."
The Falcons were led by Chase Hulsey, who went 2-for-3 with a double and stolen base.
NOTES: Flowery Branch was picked off three times during the game, but reached base safely all three times... Madison County was called for interference twice during the game; once on a batter hitting the catcher's glove on a throw to second, and the other when a ball hit a runner trying to advance to second...Flowery Branch won the last meeting 6-4.