A.C. Flora took over sole possession of first place in the highly competitive Region 5-3A baseball race with a Super Saturday win over visiting Chapin.
The Falcons blew a three-run lead in the top of the seventh inning, but came away with an 8-7 decision on Schroder Carlton’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning. Carlton’s deep drive to center field on the first pitch by Chapin reliever Nick Beline allowed pinch runner Jamey Dye to prance home without a play with the winning run.
“Play at home gave us the chance to make up for giving up those three runs and we took advantage of it,” said SCF coach Andy Hallett. “Nothing surprises me in this region, which I think is the best in the state. Teams have been learning the hard way that if you don’t bring the ‘A’ game, you probably lose. That’s a darn good team we got by against today.”
Flora’s chance to gain the high ground in the region was created on Friday when Airport knocked off Midland Valley – the only team that has mastered the Falcons in conference play so far.
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As of Saturday, ACF stands at 4-1, followed by Midland Valley (5-2), Chapin (4-3), Airport (4-4) and Dreher (3-3). Preseason favorite Brookland-Cayce is off to a disappointing 2-4 start.
“This was a good win, but we’re a long way from the end,” said Hallett. “We had seven days without a game after the RBI tournament, and it took us a while to get the motor going again, so to speak. We’re getting our game rhythm back.”
Flora finished with eight hits against three Chapin pitchers, including ace senior right-hander Taylor Alvarez, smacking two home runs. Shortstop Aaron Poole belted Alvarez’s third pitch of the game over the scoreboard in left field to highlight a 3-0 Falcons start. No. 9 hitter Davis Funderburk greeted Eagles reliever Parker McTeer with a solo homer to left in the sixth to increase the ACF edge to 7-4. Ironically, Funderburk also connected on McTeer’s third pitch of the game.
But starter Daniel Walker and reliever Donald Gillespie could not close it out in the top of the seventh. Walker had a solid performance for five innings before hitting the wall. The right-hander allowed three hits and one run in the sixth, walked Alvarez to open the seventh and was lifted in favor of Gillespie after throwing one ball to the following Chapin batter.
A dropped fly ball in right field and a RBI single by Zach Haralambis brought the Eagles within 7-5. A walk and a double by Caleb Mattox cut the Flora lead to 7-6 and put runners on second and third base with one out.
Here, Gillespie dug in. Pinch hitter Mel Kitchens brought in Ty Stoudemire with the equalizer on a ground out, but Gillespie caught Cole Morris looking for the third out.
In the bottom of the seventh, Jake Lewis got things going for the Falcons with a one-out infield single off McTeer. Dye, in for Lewis, raced to third base on a single to right by Gillespie and came home on Carlton’s big-enough fly. Carlton also had a RBI triple off Alvarez in the fifth and scored on a wild pitch.
Lewis and Gillespie had two-hit games for the Falcons. Gillespie was in the middle of the action the entire game. His routine ground ball in the first inning resulted in a two-run error, he doubled and scored on Carlton’s triple in the fifth and his single in the seventh put Dye in position to score on a fly ball. He blew a save opportunity but emerged with the mound decision, and made two fine defensive plays on difficult chances at third base.
Mattox was the Chapin offensive headliner with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, a single and a run scored in the sixth before his run-scoring double in the seventh.
The Falcons (6-2 overall) will be look to build a two-game lead over the rest of the field with a win at Midland Valley on Tuesday. The Falcons dropped a 6-2 decision to the Mustangs in their first region/regular season outing on March 11.
It was the tough week for the Eagles, who now stand at 9-4 overall. Chapin opened the week with a 9-2 loss to resurgent Airport on Tuesday, bounced back to avenge a first-half loss to B-C with an 11-1 rout of the Bearcats on Thursday and let a chance to essentially create a three-way tie for first place slip away on Saturday.