CONYERS -- The Flowery Branch softball team used a simple formula in beating Rockdale Thursday in Conyers: The bottom of the Falcons' lineup set the table, and the top made sure they touched home on several occasions. Nos. 8 and 9 hitters Erica Embry and Casey Zoeller reached base five times and scored four runs and leadoff hitter Kelly Kahlert and No. 2 hitter Kendall Fowler drove in a combined five runs in Flowery Branch's 9-6 victory in Region 8-AAAA play.
Leading just 4-3 in the top of the fourth, Embry singled and Zoeller walked with one out and Kahlert followed with a bunt single to load the bases. Fowler worked the count to 2-1 before lacing a two-run single to make it a 6-3 game. Caitlin Fowler's sacrifice fly gave the Falcons some distance.
"Usually when you get eighth and ninth in the order, those are the ones you get out. Seemed like (Thursday) they got everything kick-started," said Rockdale coach Justin Arrington, whose team fell to 2-10, but just 2-3 in league play. "Two sections of their lineup were kind of catalysts. They just had some speed, they were really quick. It's hard to defend stuff like that."
Flowery Branch (2-7-1, 1-3) went up 9-3 in the sixth when Kahlert and Kendall Fowler each had a bunt hit and Kaley Garmon delivered a two-run double. Rockdale clawed back, getting three runs in its half of the sixth on Breanna Richardson's RBI-single and a two-run single from Danielle Turner. But trailing by three in the seventh, Erica Williams led off with a walk but was picked off of first and the Bulldogs went quietly the rest of the way. Despite scoring six runs, Rockdale had numerous chances to add to its total, but left 10 runners on base (at least one in each inning), including nine in scoring position.
"If we had a couple more clutch hits, different outcome," Arrington said. "Really wanted to win this game to get back to .500 in the region (but) they didn't quit. Have to get back to work."
Rockdale took the first lead of the game against Flowery Branch right-hander Jessica Gunter, who went the distance on 143 pitches and allowed six earned runs. Candace Johnson yanked a solo home run into the right field corner with one out in the first for a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, Taylor Johnson narrowly missed a home run of her own, doubling off the wall, and two batters later, Brianna Patton's single made it 2-0. Flowery Branch answered with a big two-out rally in the top of the second against Rockdale freshman hurler Miasa Mayer (CG, 8 ER). Gunter and Embry singled and Zoeller walked to load the bases, and Kahlert followed with a three-run triple that Candace Johnson appeared to have a bead on but couldn't come up with. Kendall Fowler's ground ball was mishandled by third baseman Keishaun Drake and Kahlert scampered home for a 4-2 lead. The host Bulldogs pulled to within a run in the third and Taylor Johnson reached on an error, stole second and moved to third and scored on wild pitches.
Both teams continue region play September 6 when Rockdale travels to Winder-Barrow and Flowery Branch hosts Heritage.