A.C. Flora baseball coach Andy Hallett wants to win every time he puts his team on the field. But there was a bigger picture to consider when the defending Class 3A state champions played host to defending Class 4A state champion Lexington in both teams’ final regular-season contest Monday night.
The Falcons rode the pitching of Banks Cromer and timely hitting from he middle of the order to an 8-2 victory. More importantly, they got a quality game in before opening the playoffs on Friday. The teams split the season series 1-1.
“It’s momentum stuff. A good opponent, a good win,” Hallett said. “We knew we needed to play these guys going into the playoffs. That’s one of the main reasons why we scheduled it. We wanted to see pitchers the caliber of what we’re going to see in the playoffs. It gave our guys something to look at. That’s important, especially since the forecast is calling for some rain the next couple of days.”
Lexington coach Brian Hucks wasn’t pleased his team closed the season with two losses in its final three games but thought playing this game would be a benefit for his team as it looks to defend its 2013 state title.
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“You always play to win, but win, lose or draw you get the chance to play a competitive seven innings against a quality opponent,” Hucks said. “That helps tune you up for the playoffs. There is nothing we can simulate in practice for three days to get us ready like playing this game. We’ll use this, learn from it and try to make a run in the playoffs.”
Cromer (3-0) was solid in his five innings of work. The senior left-hander limited the Wildcats (16-7) to one run on five hits in throwing 60 pitches.
“Banks threw great, 60 pitches in five innings,” Hallett said. “You can’t ask for much better than that. He’s going to throw on Monday, so he has a full week to recover, but he needed some work but we didn’t want to overextend him.”
Lexington used sophomore Rhett Bane in the starting role and he allowed two runs on one hit. A costly error, a hit by pitch and walk led to two runs in the second inning without the benefit of a hit.
Franklin Chapman and Everett Eynon had RBI groundouts to stake A.C. Flora (20-3) to a 2-0 lead.
The Falcons put six more runs on the board in the fifth when they sent 11 hitters to the plate. Madison Stokes collected two of the four hits in the frame and his two-run single capped the scoring. Austin Beskid, Connor Desmond, Wills Chapman and Josh Hernandez collected RBIs in the inning.
“It’s always good to see a crooked number like that,” Hallett said “It was nice to see some of our guys find the barrel in the last couple of at bats. We got to see a couple of different arms for our hitters, and that will help us going forward.”
Hucks liked the outing by Bane but was disappointed in the effort of his bullpen. Lexington didn’t use its top guys, but the effort by the bullpen was a concern,
“Our bullpen let us down a little bit,” Hucks said. “We got some balls up, walked some people and the heart of their order made us pay. You walk seven or eight and make three errors, and you don’t win many games like that. We have to clean it up, but we feel good where we are and where our draw is. We’ll just try to win the next game we play.”
A.C. Flora, the two-time defending state champions, will play host to Chester in the opening game of the playoffs Friday at 6:30 pm. Lexington will also be at home, against Ridge View on Thursday at 7 pm.
W: Banks Cromer. L Rhett Bane. Hitters: L – Justin Bowers 2-4; Trey Watts 2-3; Jordan Buster 2-3. ACF – Madison Stokes 2-4, Wills Chapman 2-3, Josh Hernandez 2-3.