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Late-game heroics lift Falcons over Chestatee
Chestatee High shortstop Kevin Clifford is late with the tag allowing Flowery Branch High's Logan Conley to steal second during the first inning of Wednesday evening's game at the Chestatee High baseball field.
Flowery Branch baseball coach Jimmy Lawler will be the first to admit that this season has been full of struggles for his Falcons.

Entering its game against Chestatee, Flowery Branch had one win, but had lost five games by one run and had a five-run lead in another game that it lost.

At the end of the Falcons 10-8 win against the War Eagles at War Eagles Park on Wednesday, however, none of that mattered.

“To see something good happen because of effort is good for this team and I’m proud of them,” Lawler said. “To have good things happen late in the game gives us confidence going forward.”

Flowery Branch (2-14, 2-8 Region 7B-AAA) sophomore Andrew Laur earned his first high school win, pitching a complete game with five strikeouts.

“He’s been strong all year, but we didn’t give him the run support early in the year,” Lawler said. “He’s a gamer and it’s so nice to have a kid on the mound that wants it, and he wanted it big time tonight.”

The Falcons held a 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, but Chestatee’s Rafael Mendoza came through with a two-RBI single that scored Scott Chewning and Zack Sisk to give the War Eagles their first lead of the game.

Mendoza led the way at the plate for Chestatee going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. James Kibbler (1-for-2), Kevin Clifford (1-for-4) and Ethan Stinchcomb (1-for-3) also had RBIs for the War Eagles (9-6, 4-6 Region 7A-AAA).

However, in the top half of the sixth is when the aforementioned late-game good things happened for the Falcons.

With the bases loaded and two out, Logan Conley was hit by a pitch, scoring Kyle Famiano and tying the game.

While the run was important on the scoreboard, it was also a bit of retribution for a Flowery Branch team that left the bases loaded in the first, second and fourth innings and left 12 men total on base in the game.

“We continued what we’ve been doing recently which is swinging the bats aggressively,” Lawler said. “But while we did a good job of hitting the ball hard, we were squandering out opportunities.”

That all changed when senior center fielder Cory Sanderson stepped to the plate following Conley.

With the bases still loaded, Sanderson roped a triple to right center field that cleared the bases. A Chestatee error in the same series allowed Sanderson to score giving him an inside-the-park home run and the Falcons a 10-6 lead.

“Well first off, that was a big hit,” Lawler said. “It was the first pitch he saw from (Chestatee’s relief pitcher), and he hit it right on the money to the opposite field.

“When he slid into third, he did a great job of popping up and finding the ball. It was a great example of senior awareness and a good, hustling play.”

Sanderson went 2-for-3 on the night with two hits and four RBIs. The former linebacker for the Flowery Branch football team also had two of the team’s eight stolen bases.

Also leading the way offensively for Flowery Branch were Famiano, who finished with a double in three plate appearances and three RBIs; Jimmy Fitzgerald, who went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI and Conley, Breck Davidson, Robby Boudreau and
Taylor Jones who each got a hit for the Falcons.

Chestatee made a strong, but brief comeback in the bottom of the last. Kibbler, after earning a walk, scored on a Clifford triple. Clifford then scored on a Laur balk, but a full comeback was not meant to be as a Chestatee groundout ended the game.

Chestatee returns to action at 5:55 p.m. Monday when it plays host to Pickens. Flowery Branch plays host to Gainesville at 5:55 p.m. Friday.
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