It was a mixed bag from the Flowery Branch softball team Tuesday night in Flowery Branch for the team’s first-round playoff doubleheader against Cedartown.
The Lady Falcons took the first game in a 3-1 pitcher’s duel, but dropped the second 14-4 to set up a decisive Game 3 Wednesday evening.
Nikki Harris got the start for Flowery Branch in the first game, striking out seven over seven innings, while only allowing one run off of seven hits. Cedartown scored in the second inning off a single to left field from Kiana Potts, but the Lady Falcons clamped down from there.
Savannah Rutledge tripled in the third to bring home Kate Stage for the tying run, and was batted in herself by Rylee Rothchild one pitch later to put Flowery Branch on top. Stage scored again in the fifth following an errant throw to first to give the Lady Falcons an insurance run and keep the home team ahead for good.
The second game was more problematic for Flowery Branch.
Jessica Houston got the start, but gave up three runs on three walks, a hit batter and a couple of wild pitches. She was pulled from the contest before registering a single out.
Makeala Davis provided a bright spot for Flowery Branch when she homered to lead off the second, but five more Cedartown runs in the third put the Lady Falcons comeback hopes to rest.
HARRIS CLUTCH IN START
Harris wasn’t perfect for Flowery Branch in Game 1, but she always had exactly what the Lady Falcons needed.
Trailing 1-0 in the third and desperately trying to keep things close, Harris gave up a double that put Cedartown runners on second and third with only one out away. She responded with a strikeout and a forced ground ball that stranded both runners.
Harris faced the exact same scenario in the fourth — this time with her team holding on to a 2-1 lead — and came up with another strikeout and forced ground ball to preserve the Flowery Branch advantage. She picked up some momentum from there, retiring nine of the next 11 Cedartown batters to safely carry the Lady Falcons to the win.
“It was a great start,” Flowery Branch coach Laura Novotny-Beaver said. “We’re very happy with our first game performance.”
Though Flowery Branch struggled at times at the plate, Makeala Davis was firing on all cylinders from the beginning.
After fouling off three pitches to start her first at-bat, Davis drove a single to shallow centerfield to lead off the second inning of the first game to get things started. She singled again in the fourth and doubled in the sixth, but really opened things up in the Lady Falcons’ second game.
Davis launched a home run over the centerfield wall in Flowery Branch’s first at-bat of the second inning in Game 2 and brought in a pair of runs in the third with her third single of the night. She would finish the doubleheader 5 for 6 with three RBIs.
“She’s been a consistent power hitter for us all season,” Novotny-Beaver said. “I’m glad to see that she’s continuing it in the postseason. We’re happy with what she’s doing at the plate.”
TIME TO REGROUP
The Lady Falcons failed to close out the night Tuesday, and now the entire season comes down to a huge Game 3 Wednesday evening to decide the series. Novotny-Beaver said the disastrous Game 2 was a result of poor play both in the circle and at the plate.
“We went through three pitchers in the second game,” she said. “We need to be able to do better on the rubber. We need to be able to string runs together with hits. We didn’t do that.”
Novotny-Beaver added that her decision for who will start Wednesday night will be among the biggest deciding factors in the game. Beyond that, it’s all going to be about how the Lady Falcons can clean things up in terms of simple execution and consistency.
“Making sure we’ve got the right person on the rubber, and making sure we’re taking care of the little things,” Novotny-Beaver said.