BUFORD— A five inning, run-shortened win in Buford on Wednesday had to calm some of Flowery Branch baseball coach Jimmy Lawler’s concerns for this season.
After graduating 10 seniors from last year’s Region 7-AAA title squad, the Falcons’ (1-0) coach naturally would question where his leadership was going to come from this year.
Well, Flowery Branch responded with timely hitting, strong pitching and good defensive play as part of a 12-0 win against Buford at Gerald McQuaig Field.
"This was a good win that should give our team some confidence," Lawler said after earning his 200th career victory.
"We’ve got a lot of guys that have worked hard on this team and are ready to step up," said Flowery Branch junior pitcher James Mills, who pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only three hits in the first varsity start of his career.
The Falcons looked more like a veteran squad than they truly are with eight of their 10 hitters reaching base on hits.
Jordan Wilson led Flowery Branch with a pair of hits and four RBIs. Falcons catcher Bucky Free was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and James Wilson added two hits and a pair of runs.
"We were swinging the bat well and did a good job hitting it with runners on base," Lawler added.
The first inning clearly set the tone for Flowery Branch’s offensive production. With two outs and no runners on base, James Wilson, Cory Sanderson, Jordan Wilson and Ashton Sommers all strung together singles to put two quick runs on the board.
In the second inning, James Wilson had a two-run double with two outs, followed by an RBI single from Sanderson. Flowery Branch scored seven runs with two outs.
Lost in all of Flowery Branch’s scoring was the job Mills did on the mound. He only had to face 20 Wolves’ (1-1) hitters to record the victory. Mills only allowed three Buford hitters to reach scoring position. After graduating Times 2008 Baseball Player of the Year Patrick Henry, Lawler may have found his go-to guy on the mound for 2009 in Mills.
Cody Getz, Josh Rudnik and Kyler Berrett each had one hit for the Wolves. This was a stark contrast to the way Buford hit the ball in its season opener Monday when it got runners on base and drove most of them in with its win against North Hall.
"He (Mills) went out there and threw strikes," Lawler said. "That’s all we ask is for our pitchers to throw strikes and change speeds."
Still, Flowery Branch’s coach didn’t want his players to get excited about winning their only non-region game of the season. The Falcons jump right into Region 7-AAA play today against Gainesville in the first of a tough stretch of games that also includes Lumpkin County and North Hall all in the next seven days.
"We only have one non-region game to get ready and we still have players on this team still fighting for position," Lawler said.
Buford visits Forsyth Central at 5:55 p.m. on Tuesday.