Yes, it’s early in the baseball season and there are plenty of games to be played, but it’s hard not to notice Flowery Branch’s quick start.
The Falcons have already matched their 2010 win total while moving up a classification to Region 8-AAAA. Their 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Cedar Shoals last Wednesday put them at 5-1. Last season they finished 5-20. More importantly, Wednesday’s win got Flowery Branch off to a winning start in region play.
The Falcons are winning with a first-year coach and a relatively young squad that features, at most, two seniors on the field at the same time.
Though mostly juniors and underclassmen, the Falcons are still experienced, getting playing time early in their prep careers. Logan Conley, a junior, has been a starter since his freshman season.
Conley notices a difference in this year’s team from 2010.
“All around, we’re clicking better,” he said. “There’s a lot more chemistry than last year. We’re all closer. Last year, there were cliques here and there. Now, we’re more of a team.”
So far, the chemistry has resulted in a better brand of baseball.
Errors were a big problem for last year’s team. This year, they’ve reduced miscues greatly. Another big problem in 2010 was closing out games. This year, the Falcons are the ones rallying to win.
“We seemed to find ways to lose last year,” said Myers, a long-time assistant on Jimmy Lawler’s staff before taking over as coach this season. “There were a lot of games where we were close and then all of a sudden, we’re down six, seven runs instead of two or three. We’d get down a few runs and it would be, ‘Here we go again.’ An error and the chin drops to the chest, then another error. Then one loss would become another loss.
“We couldn’t overcome that.”
Last week against visiting Harding Academy (Tenn.), the Falcons trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. They won 4-3 on Keltin DeVoe’s RBI single.
“To me, that was big,” said Myers said, “to actually fight and make a comeback. That was one of the best wins I’ve seen from us.”
The Falcons are also starting to see themselves on the winning end of error-riddled games. Against Class AAAAA’s Mountain View earlier in the month, they earned a 10-0 mercy-rule win benefitting from the Bears’ five errors and three run-yielding wild pitches.
But besting a five-win season isn’t Flowery Branch’s main goal. A return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus is what the Falcons want. Flowery Branch made the playoffs four straight years from 2006-09, winning Region 7-AAA in 2008.
Falcons senior catcher Jesse Brookshire was on the ’08 and ’09 teams. He admits a major difference in those teams and this one, but the one similarity he sees could go a long way in determining if Flowery Branch qualifies for postseason play.
“Those teams had a lot more power,” Brookshire said. “We’re more of a small-ball team that tries to keep the ball in the field. They hit a lot of bombs. But team-wise, they clicked like we are right now, so I guess it’s all about clicking.
“I think we can make the playoffs. We’ll compete this year.”
Adam Krohn is a sports writer for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesakrohn.