OAKWOOD — Johnson High baseball coach Tony Wilson frequently passes a simple message on to his team: battle for seven innings.
“Keep playing and doing the right things and don’t give up because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
If Monday night was any indication, the Knights (7-6, 4-2 Region 7-AAA) are heeding his words.
After Flowery Branch (1-12, 1-6) rallied from seven down in the last two innings to tie the score at 10, Johnson’s A.J. Benefield walked to force in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh and give the Knights an 11-10 win.
“(A.J.) showed good plate discipline during that at bat,” Wilson said. “We kept telling him that an RBI is an RBI whether you get a hit or a walk.”
With the win, the Knights snapped a two-game subregion losing streak.
For the night, Benefield was 2-for-2 with two hits and two RBIs, including a solo home run in the bottom of the second.
“He’s been great for us,” Wilson said of Benefield. “He had to play a lot last year as a freshman and is really stepping up for us this year.”
In the first two innings, Flowery Branch seemingly picked up right where it left off in last Saturday’s 14-4 win against West Hall.
Leadoff batter C.J. Navin got things started with a walk. Logan Conley followed that up with an RBI double that scored Navin.
Conley then scored on a Jimmy Fitzgerald single, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first.
Flowery Branch extended that lead in the top half of the second when a Kyle Famiano triple was followed by a Keltin Devoe single.
It took Johnson longer than its opponent to get rolling offensively, but when the Knights did, they didn’t let up.
With Benefield’s solo homer in the second as the starting point, West Hall scored nine runs over three innings to take a commanding 9-3 lead.
Chris White led the way for Johnson finishing 3-for-4 with a double. Blake Stacey, Logan Pethel, Benefield and Ethan Loggins each had two hits for the Knights and combined to knock in seven of the team’s 11 runs.
While Johnson’s offense was erupting, Flowery Branch’s went stagnant.
The Falcons didn’t score a run and only got two hits off Johnson starter Win Griffin in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
In the sixth, however, the Falcons got back in the swing of things, scoring seven runs on 10 hits to tie the game at 10.
Devoe hit the game-tying single that scored Jesse Brookshire and Robby Boudreau. Flowery Branch had a chance to take the lead when Conley hit a single with Kyle Famiano on second, but Famiano was thrown out at home giving Johnson a chance to win in the home half of the seventh.
Conley led Flowery Branch, going 4-for-5 with an RBI. Brookshire, Boudreau, Famiano and Devoe each had two hits while Devoe also knocked in four runs. Cory Sanderson also drove in a pair.
“We made too many mental errors in the last two innings,” Wilson said. “We got a lead but didn’t do what it took to keep it.
“I thought Win (Griffin) pitched a great game, our pitching wasn’t the problem. Our defense didn’t do what they needed to.
“It’s always great to get a win against Flowery Branch,” Wilson added. “The score was a little closer than I’d have liked for it to be, but a win’s a win.”
Johnson returns to action at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when it plays host to White County. Flowery Branch plays host to Pickens at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday.