FLOWERY BRANCH — Jessie Brookshire wasn’t going to let his golden opportunity pass him by. The Flowery Branch sophomore put up two hits and drove in a run in his first appearance in a varsity game en route to his team’s 5-4 win against Johnson on Wednesday in Flowery Branch.
"I’m happy for him," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler said. "It’s nice to see a kid that excited about getting to play."
With the win, Flowery Branch (19-5, 18-5 Region 7-AAA) still has a shot at earning the second spot for the playoffs and home field advantage in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs that open on May 9.
To secure home field, the Falcons need a win today against West Forsyth, combined with a Lumpkin County (20-5, 18-5) loss to North Hall (15-10, 15-8) on Friday. Flowery Branch won the first head-to-head matchup against West Forsyth this season, 15-9.
"We’re excited for this game," Flowery Branch junior Jimmy Fitzgerald said. "We’re all going to be ready for this one."
With a playoff spot already guaranteed, Lawler isn’t as much concerned about earning home field advantage.
"I’m just happy with the position we’re in," Lawler said. "I’m happy with how we’ve done in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us."
Brookshire took advantage of his first varsity plate appearance with a single in the first inning against Johnson. Then in the fifth, he drove in the game’s final run, scoring James Wilson. Flowery Branch’s fill-in catcher came into the game in the top of the first inning, after only finding out earlier in the day that he would dress out with the team.
Flowery Branch starting catcher Bucky Free was sidelined for the game with an injury.
"He (Jessie Brookshire) really stepped up for us tonight," added Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had a two-run home run for the Falcons in the first inning, driving in lead off hitter Brad Stone after he reached on a triple. Cory Sanderson had two hits and scored two runs for Flowery Branch.
Johnson’s (5-20, 5-18) only lead came in the first inning with an RBI single from Nick Denard and another run scored on a pass ball. Denard led the Knights with two hits and reached base three times. Christian Duguay had an RBI double for Johnson in the fourth that scored Taylor Whitmire.
Johnson plays host to West Hall in the regular season finale at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The playoff picture in Region 7-AAA is still not cemented beyond the fact that Creekview (22-3, 21-2) is the region champion. The other three playoff qualifiers — Flowery Branch, Lumpkin County and West Forsyth — are each in position to finish anywhere from No. 2-4 in the playoff picture.
In the first round of the state playoffs, Region 7-AAA will match up against Region 8-AAA, where Stephens County (20-2, 13-0) has already claimed the region title.