FLOWERY BRANCH — Drew Miles made sure a couple of bad hops didn’t come between Flowery Branch and its postseason ambitions.
With his team tied against Apalachee in the bottom of the seventh, after squandering a two-run lead earlier in the inning, Miles ripped a hard-hit walk-off single that brushed off the glove of Wildcats shortstop Steven Adair to score Jonathon Hughes from third and lift the Falcons to a 4-3 win in a crucial Region 8-AAAAA contest between two teams battling for a state playoff spot.
It was a perfect way to bounce back from a less-than-spectacular top half of the seventh, which saw Flowery Branch (12-7, 7-3) lose a 2-0 advantage after allowing three runs on two hits and three errors following what was an all-around clean game for Flowery Branch.
“I was trying to put a ball in play and move the baseball,” Miles said. “I saw a curveball, and I figured he would try and get me to ground out.”
The Falcons now carry sole possession of fourth place in the region, holding a one-game lead over Apalachee (11-9, 6-4) after the Wildcats’ bested Flowery Branch 3-2 in eight innings on Wednesday. By splitting the series, the Falcons have alleviated some of the pressure to beat upcoming opponents Winder-Barrow and Gainesville, both of which are sure to be in the playoff picture when the regular season concludes later this month.
“In a sense, it kind of saved our season,” Falcons coach Scott Myers said. “If they beat us and stay in the four spot, we’d have to have a bit of help.
“We kind of control our own destiny. If we can come out and handle our business on the days that we need to, we have a chance to get in.”
Flowery Branch certainly did that Friday, shrugging off the defensive woes that offered Apalachee a chance to sweep the series after being held scoreless for the first six innings.
The Falcons quickly loaded up the bases with three consecutive hits to open the bottom of the seventh, including a bunt single by Stephen Skaggs that allowed Robert Rose to slide safely into second on a bang-bang play. It set up Hughes’ game-tying RBI single to right that scored Rose, and Miles’ walk-off followed two at-bats later.
“I told the two-hole guy that if (Rose) gets on, we’re bunting,” Myers said. “I think everyone in the stadium knew we were bunting. He did a good job puting the bunt down.
“They did a great job of competing and getting back into it.”
Apalachee’s attempt to steal the win was likely avoidable without so many errors in the top half of the inning. Tyler Adams hit a routine groundout to Flowery Branch shortstop Justin Seabolt with runners on second and third, but the throw to first sailed over Miles at first base and allowed Austin Leazer and Eric Morgan to score the game-tying runs. Three at-bats later with two outs, Austin Miller singled Adams home to give the Wildcats their only lead of the night.
It was an uncharacteristic defensive performance for Myers’ team, which had five errors on the night.
“We played Wednesday and looked phenomenal,” Myers said. “A couple of bad hops. Kids are going to make errors, and you just have to overcome it.”
Andrew Weekley picked up the win on the mound for the Falcons, pitching a complete game with four strikeouts and no earned runs.
At 4-1 this season, the senior has quickly established himself as a quality starter in place for Chase Hulsey, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
“I feel like I’ve been doing good,” Weekley said. “Defense is usually behind me every inning. We had a couple of bad hops, but we did pretty good.”
Weekley provided himself with run support in the bottom of the first with an RBI single in the top of the first. Dylan Gibeau also singled in a run, and Flowery Branch maintained the 2-0 lead until the seventh.
Adams also pitched a complete game for Apalachee, striking out two.