Flowery Branch sweeps Veterans out of postseason

Veterans couldn’t see the forest for the “3s”.

That unfortunate play on words came via Flowery Branch, which beat the Warhawks 3-0 in Game 1 and 3-1 in Game 2 of their GHSA Class AAAAA Elite Eight best-of-three series at Veterans.

A homerun made the difference in Game 1. It came in the first inning. To add insult to injury, it also came with two outs. Ben Gibbs, who worked all seven innings, got the first hitter on a line out, the second on a groundout before Anthony Grutadaurio singled and A.J. Gonzalez homered on a 1-2 count to right.

It appeared the Warhawks might also do some damage in the first but Gibbs’ liner to the pitcher was turned into a double play that negated Jacob Pierce. He had singled to start the game and moved to second on a balk. Leyton Pinckney also singled behind them but a strikeout ended the inning.

Those turned out to be both of Veterans’ hits. Andrew Armstrong, who also worked a complete game, gave up a walk in the second, then set the Warhawks down in the third, fourth and fifth. He gave up another walk in the sixth, but then set them down in order in the seventh.

Minus a sloppy fourth in which the Falcons scored their third run, Gibbs was nearly as good. He set them down in order in the second and third. He gave up a pair of singles to start the aforementioned fourth, but then got a lineout and a strikeout. He then hit the next batter to load the bases before a passed ball enabled the first of those to score.

He then got them out in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh.

The second game also fit the frame of a pitcher’s duel … mostly. It featured Daniel Hawthorne for the Warhawks going against Zander Sechrist. Both worked a complete game. Both gave up three hits.

The difference was Flowery Branch’s hurler only walked one. Hawthorne gave a free pass to seven.

Two of those began the second and both turned into runs – there were four in all but Grant Lackey’s single was all it took once a sacrifice bunt had moved them over.

Veterans did make it 2-1 in the third when Spencer Sebero singled with an out, Tyler Mayfield reached on an error and Pierce was hit by a pitch. Gibbs then sacrificed the first home, but with a runner still on second and third, Sechrist coaxed a fly ball out of Pinckney.

The Falcons’ insurance run came in the fifth, a single, walk, sacrifice and then with two outs, a wild pitch.

Veterans still finished with another tremendous year. The Warhawks closed at 27-11 and added the Region 1-AAAAA championship to their accomplishments.