CLEVELAND — After two shaky outings in a row, Flowery Branch starter Zander Sechrist said it was time to go back to the basics.
The junior southpaw planned his work, and most certainly worked his plan scattering a pair of singles, struck out eight, and led the Falcons to a 10-0, five-inning win over White County Wednesday in a crucial Region 7-4A matchup.
“The last two games I think I was just overthinking things,” Sechrist said. “I just needed to go back to focusing on throwing strikes. I was able to mix in some off-speed stuff with fastballs. I just made good pitches (today).”
The win for the Falcons (12-10-1, 6-4 Region 7-4A) clinched a playoff spot and also completed a two-game sweep of the Warriors (9-13, 3-7 Region 7-4A). At the same time, they jumped past Chestatee (12-8, 4-4 Region 7-4A) into third place after the War Eagles lost 7-3 to Denmark.
The Falcons will close out their region schedule next week against Chestatee after three non-region games over the weekend in what could be a battle for third place. The War Eagles have No. 1-ranked Blessed Trinity up next while White County is still alive as well and will take on Denmark next week.
“What this shows is that every game in this region is big,” Ray said. “We’re just trying to focus on our next game right now.”
Sechrist also was part of the offense’s quick start with an RBI single in a two-run first. After a two-run third, Sechrist drove in another run in a six-run fifth as they took advantage of three White County errors in the inning and five overall.
Flowery Branch coach Joey Ray said Wednesday’s win was a near carbon-copy of their loss earlier in the year to Blessed Trinity so they are taking nothing for granted.
“Tonight we took advantage of the mistakes the other team made and that’s what you have to do in those situations,” Ray said. “That’s what happened to us against Blessed Trinity. The key is to cut down on the mistakes. What we have to remember is they are still high school kids.”
The Falcons jumped on White County starter Connor McGuire quickly as Connor Larson beat out an infield single with one out, moved to third on a single by Grant Lackey, and scored on a fielder’s choice by Andrew Armstrong. Kaleb Freeman followed with a single and Sechrist drove in Armstrong or a 2-0 lead.
Branch got a great defensive play in the bottom of the first when third baseman Kaleb Freeman made a leaping grab of a liner robbing Jake Johnson of at least a double. That was sandwiched in between a pair of Sechrist strikeouts as the Warriors went down in order.
The Falcons added a pair of unearned runs in the third as Larson and Lackey both scored after reaching on a hit by pitch and a single. A throwing error and a passed ball led to the two runs.
Meanwhile, Sechrist was nearly unhittable. He fanned four of the first eight, six of the first 12, and seven of the first 14 White County batters. A two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Rylee Higgins broke up the perfect game and J. Ben Haynes broke up the no-hitter in the fourth.
Evan Chambers also singled in the fourth for White County but Sechrist retired the final four batters to end the game.