0515LawlerAUDFlowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler talks about splitting the first two games with Stephens County Wednesday.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch’s Cody Ackerman could only describe the feeling as frustrating.
Class AAA’s top-ranked Falcons managed to hit the ball hard enough and beat Stephens County’s right-handed ace Ethan Martin, a possible first round selection in the upcoming MLB amateur draft, 4-1, only to drop the second game 8-7 to the Indians in the best-of-three second round playoff series Wednesday night at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex.
"It’s frustrating that we managed to come out and beat the guy that is ranked the eighth best player in the country, and then we fall apart in the second game after we jumped up on them early," Ackerman said. "It just kind of snowballed in that second game."
With the split of the opening pair, a third and deciding game is at 5:30 p.m. today in Flowery Branch. The winner advances to face the Troup/Harlem winner in the Class AAA state quarterfinals next week.
Ackerman can do something about his frustration. He’ll get the ball as the Falcons (27-4) starter today after throwing one inning in Game 1 and recording the save for senior left-hander Mason Roberts.
"I’m mentally prepared for pitching (today)," Ackerman said. "I got a feel for how they hit when I closed the first game."
Forcing a third game is not a new scenario for Flowery Branch this season in the playoffs. Last week, the Falcons went to three games in the first round against Riverwood. Roberts picked up the clutch win in Game 3 last Saturday, that allowed the Falcons to advance to this week’s second round.
Flowery Branch mounted a seventh inning rally against Stephens County in the second game Wednesday night.
Trailing 8-5, Chad Rackley connected on a two-run home run over the left field foul pole for the Falcons to make it a one run game. Jordan Miller reached base in the next at bat with a single for Flowery Branch, but was left stranded as Stephens County (23-7) reliever Cody Martin recorded the game’s final out on a strikeout.
Flowery Branch left a combined five runners on base in the final three innings of the game that proved costly.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Lawler said. "I know we lost our focus at the plate, and never re-grouped after giving up five runs in the first inning."
Trailing 3-0 in the first inning, the Indians battled back to take the lead permanently with an infield RBI single from Dacean Cash, a two-run single from Cody Martin and an RBI single by Bryan Whitfield. Flowery Branch sophomore James Mills entered the game to pitch in the third inning and only allowed three hits over the next five innings in his first appearance in a varsity game.
In Game 1, Roberts allowed four hits and a solo home run from Stephens County’s Chan Cash.
"I thought Mason and James Mills were absolutely great out there on the mound tonight," Lawler added.
Flowery Branch pulled away for the Game 1 victory with three runs in the fifth inning after loading the bases against Ethan Martin. Brad Stone and Danny Price each singled to start the inning, which was followed by Greg Palmer’s one out walk.
With the bases loaded, Rackley was hit by a pitch to score Patrick Henry, Miller walked to score Price and a wild pitch scored Palmer from third.
Henry led the Falcons offensively in the double header with three hits and two RBIs. Bucky Free had three singles and an RBI. Price, Palmer, Travis Coxworth and Rackley each had two hits for Flowery Branch.