A failure to capitalize of early opportunities by Flowery Branch, coupled with a strong hitting night by the big bats of Loganville resulted in the Falcons plummeting against perennial power Loganville in the second region meeting between these two schools Monday at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex.
Three days after coming up short in extra innings in Game 1, the Falcons fell behind early and could never catch the eighth-ranked Red Devils, who caught fire late with a eight-run top of the fifth and three-run top of the sixth to blow the game wide open and complete the series sweep by a 13-1 decision in Flowery Branch.
“It’s a struggle, especially when you have a team like Loganville that is not gonna let up, they’re gonna continue doing the little things: the bunting and moving runners over,” Flowery Branch coach Heath Kennedy said.
“It was a totally different game, very similar to the one on Friday night, yet we didn’t collapse. But tonight, we sort of caved in a little bit. And that’s tough.”
Loganville (9-8, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) took a two-run lead in the bottom of the second, the first run a result of two Flowery Branch throwing errors, and their second behind a Marcellus Campbell RBI-single that plated Bay Witcher, who reached on a double.
The Red Devils went on to hammer 18 hits — five for extra bases — from the plate, including three from Campbell (3 for 5, two runs scored, three RBI), a pair of doubles from the Troy University commit Witcher (2 for 2, RBI, run scored), and a two-RBI triple from Dylan Strickland (2 for 4, 2 RBI) during an eight-run top of the fifth.
Meanwhile a small-ball minded Flowery Branch (9-9, 2-2 Region 8-AAAAA) left four runners stranded through the first four innings, despite making it a one-run game in the bottom of the third. They couldn’t get much past Joseph Brandon, a two-time preseason Underclass All-American honorable mention by Rawlings and Perfect Game.
The Falcons only managed four hits against the Loganville junior, who started with a fastball-heavy approach in the first inning before unveiling his complete arsenal of off-speed and breaking ball pitches in his final four innings of work. He struck out five, the last two being the first and fourth batter in bottom of the fifth.
The Falcons cut it to 2-1 in the bottom of the third behind a double steal from Sean Akins at first base and Trace Merck at third, who scored on a failed throwout attempt at second base by the catcher.
But was the closest the Falcons could come against Loganville’s No. 2 starter.
“He was pounding the zone. But I mean, he did beat us, but that’s on us. I think we’re better than that, even with a good pitcher like that,” said Falcons shortstop Anthony Grutadaurio, who extended his hit streak to five games with a first-inning single.
It was simply a tough night for a program in transition under the first-year coach Kennedy. The coach said they were caught on the other end of a game where the little things counted.
Kennedy recalled one of Friday’s misfortunes, where his center fielder just missed a triple play opportunity. And tonight, center fielder Grant Lackey, who made a diving catch for the final out in the top of the fourth, came inches short of denying Strickland's lone three-bagger to right-center on another lunging endeavor in the top of the fifth.
“Those things help. But when you put it in play, good things can happen, and we’re just not doing that kind of stuff,” the coach said.
With eight games left on the docket, Flowery Branch despite getting past its toughest test so far in Region 8-AAAAA play, faces an even tougher road ahead. They move on to a two-game series with Walnut Grove beginning 5:55 p.m. Wednesday before the school’s Spring Break the following week, and continue region play against No. 4 ranked Buford April 10.
“There’s always that time of the season, and it is tonight, where they say “I’m with you, I believe what you’re saying, or I don’t. And I’ve always had that at every program. And this, today was the day,” Kennedy said. “It happens when all the adversity hits ya, and it got us tonight.”