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DALLAS – Flowery Branch suffered a breakdown in defensive communication when it could least afford one Thursday against North Paulding.
With the Falcons (19-9) already trailing by three in the bottom of the third inning, a routine pop-up in front of the plate by the Wolfpack’s Matt Mixon was dropped when Flowery Branch’s catcher and pitcher collided trying to make the play in the deciding Game 3 of the second-round Class AAAAA playoff series.
After Mixon, who drove in a North Paulding run with a first-inning triple, reached base, the Wolfpack pushed two more across in the inning to secure a 6-0 victory over the Falcons.
However, Flowery Branch coach Scott Myers believed the early deficit was more to blame than one fielding miscue.
“We started behind the eight-ball giving up three runs in the first,” Myers said. “You can’t give a good program like North Paulding extra runs.”
With the loss, Flowery Branch’s season is finished after upsetting Dunwoody in the opening round of the playoffs. On Wednesday, the Falcons forced the third game after a doubleheader split in Dallas. They entered Thursday night seeking the school’s first-ever berth in the state quarterfinals.
“It was a good season, had some kids step up and played hard for us,” the Falcons’ coach added. “Today, we just didn’t compete as well as we should have.”
Flowery Branch got runners on early in the game but was unable to cash in. Justin Seabolt had a one-out single in the first for the Falcons, and Andrew Nolt reached when he was hit by a pitch in the third by Wolfpack starter Emory Otott.
Flowery Branch had another scoring opportunity a couple innings later. After Deuce Davidson’s one-out double in the visitor’s portion of the fourth, he was thrown out at the plate by North Paulding center fielder Mixon on a one-hop throw following Cam Davis’ single.
After Mixon reached in the third to put a pair of North Paulding runners on, a Caleb Blaye bunt moved the runners into scoring position. Jeffrey Moore made the Flowery Branch error particularly costly when he guided a 3-1 pitch for a single to right field, scoring both runs to go up 5-0.
After Mixon’s run-scoring triple for the Wolfpack in the bottom of the first inning, Blaye connected on an RBI single. Moore tacked on the final North Pauling run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to the outfield in the spacious stadium.
North Paulding scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth. After a double-steal attempt with runners on the corners, Flowery Branch’s pitcher was called for a balk on his throw back to first, allowing the runner from third to score.
North Paulding moves on to face Houston County in a best-of-three quarterfinal series starting Tuesday in Warner Robins.