Joey Ray’s 250th career win as a high school baseball coach was as complete and impactful a win as the Flowery Branch coach could have asked for.
The Falcons hosted Madison County in a decisive Game 3 of the region series between the teams, and dominated the visiting Red Raiders in every facet of the game, earning a 10-0 win in just five innings as well as a series victory.
After the game, Ray gave much of the credit for reaching win number 250 to the assistant coaches and players who have helped him along the way in his more than decade-long head coaching career at Flowery Branch and Milton high schools.
“It’s just a blessing to have an opportunity to do this this long,” he said. “This is something we really love to do, high school coaches love to do, but it’s a very hard thing between time away from family and pouring into other kids. It means a lot because of the people, the assistant coaches and the players that I’ve coached over the years, and knowing that all the different people and boosters have had an impact in getting to that point. Because it’s not just me.”
The contest was as complete a victory as the Falcons (19-7, 10-5 Region 8-4A) could have possibly achieved.
On the mound, starter Jake Beaver and reliever Kaleb Freeman combined for a no-hitter, while striking out nine. It was Beaver’s first time pitching since before spring break due to a hamstring injury, but he didn’t miss a beat, as the only base runners the Falcons allowed all game were off a pair of fielding errors and a walk.
“(Beaver) was itching to get out there really bad, and he did a great job filling up the zone and letting our defense work,” Ray said. “You get pitching like that, you’re going to have a chance to win a lot.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Flowery Branch did much of its work in a 7-run second inning that was highlighted by a JB Bell double to deep left field that cleared the bases for the Falcons, scoring 3 runs and putting the home team on top 5-0. Flowery Branch also got RBIs from Freeman, Mason Compton and Kade Smallwood in the inning.
The offensive outburst put the Falcons up 8-0, and they added to that with another Smallwood hit in the bottom of the fourth inning, this one a 2 RBI double to right field.
Freeman relieved Beaver to start the fifth inning, and threw three straight strikeouts to end the game by run rule.
The win finished off a much needed bounce-back for Flowery Branch, which lost to Madison County on Monday, but combined to beat the Red Raiders 22-0 in Games 2 and 3.
Next week, the Falcons will finish off the regular season with a three-game series against Chestatee. Game 1 will be on Monday at 5:55 p.m. in FLowery Branch.