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Prep baseball: Falcons win season opener
Patrick Henry, of Flowery Branch, pitches to a West Hall batter. Henry finished the game with eight strikeouts. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times

FLOWERY BRANCH — No matter the condition, it’s always good to start the baseball season off on a winning note.

That’s just what Flowery Branch did Thursday night in its 6-0 win against West Hall at the sixth annual Flowery Branch Invitational.

Playing in cold weather, three Falcons pitchers combined to throw a two-hit shutout and proved that the cold weather was not a factor.

“It’s absolutely freezing,” starting pitcher Patrick Henry said after the game. “But I don’t think the cold weather had any effect on me.”

Henry, who picked up the win for the Falcons (1-0) struck out eight batters in the game, but after throwing 72 pitches (40 for strikes) was forced to leave the game after just three innings on the mound.“I just wish I could have gone a little longer, but we’ll get there,” the Valdosta State signee said.

Henry received some early run support from his teammates, as Flowery Branch jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Travis Coxworth was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

With the bases still loaded and only one out, Flowery Branch had all the makings of a big opening inning, but West Hall (1-1) starter Manny Mata enduced a 4-6-3 double play to end the rally.

That rally, however, was only halted until the next inning when Flowery Branch scored three runs on four hits to take a commanding 4-0 lead.

The big hit of the inning came off the bat of shortstop Danny Price, who smacked a two-run triple into right field, allowing Cody Ackerman and Brad Stone to score easily.

Henry helped out his own cause on the very next pitch from Mata, lining a double to left field that scored Price.

“We really preached before the game about having a plan at the plate,” Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler said, “and for two innings we had a plan. But we got a little bit of a lead and we kind of deviated from that plan.”

After the three-run second inning, the Falcons bats went quiet, getting only two hits during the next three innings off West Hall reliever Matt Ginn.

But those initial four runs were all the Falcons pitchers needed.

Henry was replaced by senior Nathan Busbee in the fourth inning, who surrendered only one hit in his two innings on the mound.

The Falcons tacked on insurance runs in the fourth and fifth innings and with the score 6-0, Cody Ackerman came on for Busbee in the sixth and final inning to secure the win.

“Obviously with a two-hit shutout you can’t help but be pleased,” Lawler said. “Our pitchers threw too many pitches but that’s OK.”

Lawler contributed the weather to the pitch count and the seven walks by the Falcons pitchers.

“When you’re cold and you’re a little stiff, I know it’d be tough for me to throw strikes,” he said.

Aside from giving up only two hits, the three Flowery Branch pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts and allowed only one runner to reach third base.

Brian Ernst and Scott Eichler were the only two Spartans to get a hit off of the Falcons.

Flowery Branch was led by Price, who went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two runs batted in. Coxworth, who was hit by a pitch in his first two at bats, and Cameron Wilson also had RBIs for Flowery Branch.

Flowery Branch will play host to Buford at 1 p.m. Saturday, while West Hall visits Lakeview Academy at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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