GAC at Buford, 4 p.m.
Athens Christian at Lakeview, 4:30 p.m.
Commerce at Tallulah Falls, 5:15 p.m.
East Hall at White County, 5:30 p.m.
Stephens County at Jackson County, 5:30 p.m.
Johnson at West Hall, 5:30 p.m.
North Hall at Lumpkin County, 5:30 p.m.
Flowery Branch at West Forsyth, 5:30 p.m.
Chestatee at Gilmer, 5:30 p.m.
Gainesville at Creekview, 5:30 p.m.
Rockdale County at Habersham Central, 5:30 p.m.
Flowery Branch High’s baseball team is one of the biggest surprises in Region 7-AAA this season. Considering the fact the Falcons (9-3, 8-3) only returned two everyday starters from last year’s region title team, no one expected them to be right in the thick of the playoff race at the midway point of the regular season.
However, the Falcons are on a seven-game winning streak, including a win against region frontrunner Creekview last week. During its current winning streak, Flowery Branch is averaging nearly 11 runs per game.
"These last two weeks we’ve come to the field with the attitude that we can win any game we play if we bring a good attitude to the field and work hard," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler said.
Those two returning starters have been a big reason why the Falcons are in the playoff picture. Junior outfielder Brad Stone is hitting .500 with 10 RBIs and 19 runs scored in the leadoff spot, and senior catcher Bucky Free has 17 RBIs. Flowery Branch senior James Wilson is among the area’s leading hitters with a .588 average, 21 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
Lawler isn’t afraid to stick a young guy into the lineup either, as evidenced by the fact that freshman Logan Conley has taken over the starting job this season at shortstop.
"The big thing for our team is that everyone is swinging the bat well," Lawler added. "Everyone in our order has had two hits or three hits in a game at some point."
Gainesville senior pitcher Erik Tarnacki (3-0, 36 strikeouts, 30 2/3 innings pitched) is a big reason the Red Elephants (7-5, 7-4) are the top half of the region standings. The Red Elephants senior pitcher picked up a win against Chestatee, despite having pneumonia, on March 9. Tarnacki missed five games before rejoining the lineup, picking up right where he left off.
That hard-nosed mentality has clearly caught on with Gainesville. Senior Andy Edmondson pitched a complete game for the Red Elephants with no earned runs allowed in an 11-1 victory Monday against White County. With the win, Gainesville has wins in six of its last seven.
Offensively, junior Sloan Strickland led the Red Elephants this week going 4-for-7 with four RBIs, and is now hitting a team-high .452 with 13 RBIs this season. Gainesville has six players with at least 10 RBIs this season, including Tarnacki (13), Mark Casper (12) and Will Maddox (10).
"We’ve played well," Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. "But we know we can still get better and there’s room to improve."
The Red Elephants play their final game in the first trip through the region schedule against Creekview today in Canton.
The similarities between the pitching staff at Lumpkin County and Lakeview Academy are striking. The Indians (11-1, 9-1 Region 7-AAA) and Lions (8-1, 2-0 Region 8-A) each have five pitchers on their team that have picked up wins this season.
Lakeview Academy’s junior ace Ralston Cash is 3-0 this season, with a miniscule 0.37 ERA and has only allowed only six hits all season. Cash has struck out 29 of 72 hitters faced this season.
Likewise, Drew Uptegraph leads Lumpkin County with a 3-0 record, and has a 2.23 ERA and 32 strikeouts this season.
Lakeview’s Brett Armour has a 2-0 mark on the mound this season, just like Lumpkin County’s Chase Grizzle.
Taylor Simpson, Tyler Ward and Jacob Whitenton each have one victory this season for the Lions. Devin Dunson, Kyle Lovell and David Webber have one win each for the Indians.
Lumpkin County’s success in the first half of the region schedule is also a direct result of its success at the plate. Indians senior Devin Dunson is one of the area’s leading hitters with a .571 average, 18 runs scored and 18 RBIs. Randy Otis is catching up quick with a .500 average and 10 RBIs in his first 20 at bats this season.
Will Anderson (.450, 22 runs scored), Chad Fulton (.422, 27 runs scored) and Jonathan Whitehead (.400, 19 RBIs) are also a big reason why the Indians are averaging 11 runs per game this season.
North Hall has managed to scored at least 13 runs five times in region play. The Trojans have four hitters above .400 at the plate this season. Nate Strong leads the Trojans (7-6, 7-4) with a .527 average, 19 hits and 17 runs scored. North Hall junior shortstop K.J. McAllister is hitting .500 with seven doubles, 18 runs scored and 18 RBIs, including hitting for the cycle against West Hall.
Davis Partrick (.488, 22 hits) and Trey Pinson (.461, 13 runs scored and 14 RBIs) are also big parts of the North Hall offense.
Buford is showing it’s going to be a force to contend with in Region 6-AA. With tradition private school powers Westminster, Blessed Trinity and GAC off to mediocre starts, the Wolves (6-6, 1-1) are right in the midst of the playoff hunt early on in the region schedule.
Adam Schrader (.550 average, .654 on base percentage) leads Buford offensively. Cody Getz (10 runs scored, three doubles), Hunter Cash (eight RBIs) and Josh Rudnik (12 RBIs) are all hitting above .400 for the Wolves this season.
New and old
Jefferson’s experienced leaders are off to quick starts to the season. The Dragons’ new kids on the block aren’t doing too bad either.
Jake Fields, last year’s Region 8-A Offensive Player of the Year, is hitting .556 with three home runs and 12 RBIs for Jefferson (7-2, 3-1 Region 8-AA). Georgia Southern signee Chris Beck has a 3-2 mark on the mound with a 1.24 ERA and 47 strikeouts.
Jamie Sexton (2-0, 2.21 ERA and 12 strikeouts) has been a nice addition to the Jefferson pitching staff this season. First-year starter Corey Wilkins is hitting .412 with 14 hits this season.
White County’s Kevin Frederick and Travis Rutkiewicz each went 4-for-4 last Friday in a win against North Hall. Frederick (.361, 11 runs scored) and Rutkiewicz (.389, 14 hits) are the Warriors’ two leading hitters this season.