FLOWERY BRANCH — One walk-off win at a time, the Flowery Branch baseball team is making a statement to the rest of Region 8-AAAAA.
C.J. Navin hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Andrew Nolt and give the Falcons a 7-6 win over fellow playoff contender Winder-Barrow on Wednesday at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex.
Navin’s game-winning rip off Bulldoggs reliever Blake Oviedo gives Flowery Branch (13-8, 8-4) two walk-off victories in its last three games, but does even more wonders for its playoff chances. The Falcons now have full control of fourth place in the region, and sit only one game behind Winder-Barrow in the standings.
That’s close enough for coach Scott Myers to believe his team is among the region’s frontrunners, including their next opponent, Gainesville.
“We’ve been right there with Loganville and we’ve been right there with Winder,” Myers said. “We’ll roll it out there next Wednesday and take our chances and see what we’ve got.”
Flowery Branch forced extra innings in the bottom of the sixth with a 6-5 deficit. Dylan Gibeau shot a hard-hit single up the middle to score Stephen Skaggs, running off Winder-Barrow (14-4, 9-3) starting pitcher Blake Marbut in the process.
The Falcons nearly put the Bulldoggs away in the bottom of the eighth. Skaggs and Jonathon Hughes drew walks and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch during Justin Seabolt’s at-bat with just one out, but both Seabolt and Gibeau struck out to keep Winder-Barrow’s chances alive.
The Bulldoggs put two runners in scoring position in the top of the ninth with two outs and nationally-heralded prospect Travis Demeritte on deck, but the South Carolina signee never saw the plate as Flowery Branch reliever Andrew Weekley fanned Drew Davis for the final out.
The Falcons opened the bottom of the ninth with a grounder by Weekley that rolled through the legs of Winder-Barrow third baseman Grayson Ivey. Nolt, who checked in as a courtesy runner, reached second on the next at-bat, and Navin brought him home to end the game.
“I got in there looking for a fastball on the first pitch and he gave it to me,” Navin said. “He left it up a little bit and I was able to hit it deep and score the run.”
Weekley picked up the win after 3 2/3 innings of work, allowing just one hit in the process after a 5 1/3-inning performance from Hughes. He also went 1 for 3 at the plate with three RBIs, two of which came in the bottom of Flowery Branch’s four-run first inning. Navin and Robert Rose batted in runs later in the inning.
Weekley drove in another run in the bottom of the second to give Flowery Branch its biggest lead of the night at 5-2.
“Weekley went out in relief for Hughes and held them right where they were,” Myers said. “He did a phenomenal job of coming in and keeping us in the ball game.”
The Falcons’ early rally alleviated a solo home run hit by Demeritte during the first at-bat of the game. He was walked the rest of the night, three times intentionally.
Winder-Barrow got within one of Flowery Branch on a two-run single by 3-for-4 hitter Jake Frady in the top of the second. The Bulldoggs tied the game with Dalton Carter’s RBI single in the top of the sixth, and took back their lead with a sacrifice fly by Christian Hodge.