FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch is off to good start in its unusual region format. On Wednesday, the Falcons (8-2, 2-0 Region 8A-AAAA) completed a two-game sweep of Clarke Central with a 7-2 win at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex in Flowery Branch.
The Falcons started the week with a 5-4 win against the Gladiators in Athens.
With the new region format in 8-AAAA, Flowery Branch will play a home-and-away every Monday and Wednesday against a subregion opponent, rounded out each week with a crossover game. This week, the Falcons take a trip to No. 6 Loganville on Friday.
“I really feel like we have a good shot to do well in the region,” said
junior Chase Hulsey, who had two hits and scored twice for the Falcons Wednesday.
Chandler Newton ensured the victory for Flowery Branch with his performance in tight situations on the mound. The sophomore Newton gave up a pair of runs in the second, but pitched out of jams later in the second, third and fifth innings without allowing another Gladiators run to score.
The biggest challenge Newton faced was in the second inning with the score tied 2-2. With a pair of Clarke Central runners in scoring position and only one out, however, he retired the final two batters in the inning, including a strikeout to end the threat without any further damage.
“I put myself in that position, so I knew it was my job to get out of it,” Newton said. “When a runner on the other team gets past first base, I just try to dial in and get out of it.”
In the third, Newton had to pitch out of a jam again when Clarke Central’s Alex Harris reached with a two-out single and Jack Elliott-Gower got on with a walk. Both advanced to scoring position on a double steal, but Newton recorded the inning’s final out with one of his seven strikeouts of the night.
Newton also pitched around a Gladiator runner at third with two outs in the fourth and fifth innings, before retiring the side in order in the sixth. He finished the game allowing only a pair of hits and three walks over six innings.
“Chandler battled all night for us,” Flowery Branch coach Scott Myers said. “He got in a jam a couple times, but then he got himself right out of it.”
Flowery Branch’s offense gave Newton all the help he needed with a pair of first-inning runs and three insurance runs in the sixth inning.
Hulsey reached to start the first for the Falcons, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. He scored on a wild pitch, followed by an RBI infield single by Brody Thomas. In the third, Hulsey reached on a walk, moved to second on a throwing error and then to third on a strikeout and throw to first for the out. He scored his second run of the game on a passed ball.
Myers said that currently his team is struggling to hit the ball, and playing more smallball could be the cure.
“We’re not a home run team,” Hulsey said. “But we have a lot of speed and put the ball in play from gap to gap.”
In the sixth inning, Thomas reached on a lead-off walk and scored on a double in the gap by Logan Conley. Junior Chandler Malecki added a two-run single that went through the hole between the pitcher and first baseman.
Keltin Devoe had an RBI double in the fourth for Flowery Branch.
Clarke Central’s (3-8, 0-2) only success against Newton came in the second when, trailing 2-0, Elliott-Gower, Philip Trandel and Jeremiah Warren all strung together hits to score a pair of runs.
The Gladiators visit Rockdale County at 5:55 p.m. Friday in Conyers.