Salem pitcher Tiwuan Head delivers a pitch in Wednesday’s game against Flowery Branch. Staff photo by Kurt Aschermann Jr.
In his first two plate appearances Wednesday, Dylan Gibeau had ended two Flowery Branch rallies by grounding into a double play and striking out.
The Falcons’ designated hitter made up for it in a big way during at bat No. 3. Gibeau hit a go-ahead solo home run leading off the sixth inning in Flowery Branch’s 6-3 victory over Salem in Region 8-AAAAA play.
Trailing 4-2, Salem got a run back in the bottom of the sixth on a bizarre play. Jordan Johnson led off with a triple and was still at third with two outs after reliever Jonathan Hughes struck out Cole Gibson and Ryan Read. Hughes turned to make a pickoff throw to first, but there was no baserunner at first and the balk forced home Johnson to cut the deficit to 4-3. Salem wouldn’t score again as Hughes worked around a bunt single by Cary Campbell to strike out Ndiayemon Harrison, then struck out the side in the seventh to preserve the victory.
In between, the visitors added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh against starter Tiwuan Head and Gibson. Justin Seabolt reached on an error and later was balked home by Gibson. Stephen Skeggs, whose single chased Head from the game, scored on a sacrifice fly by Chad Kahlert to make it 6-3.
Flowery Branch jumped on top with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning. Andrew Nolt ripped a triple into the right field corner with one out and Head’s wild pitch allowed Nolt to score the first run of the night.
Hughes and Justin Seabolt had consecutive singles and after a sacrifice by Skeggs, catcher Rocky Mauriello couldn’t handle a Head pitch and the passed ball chased home Hughes to put the Falcons up 2-0.
Salem answered right away against Flowery Branch starter Trevor Roof. Harrison polished off a nine-pitch at bat with a walk, while Jordan Scott also walked and Yorel James reached on an infield single to load the bases.
After Head popped out to shortstop for the second out, Jason Howell poked a double that grazed off the glove of Hughes at third base and down the left-field line, scoring Harrison and James with the tying run.
Gibson tried to give Salem the lead in the fourth. After Flowery Branch second baseman Deuce Davidson’s throw was wide on a force attempt at second, Gibson attempted to score, but Davidson recovered and his throw home was in plenty of time for the second out of the inning.
The Falcons’ two-run rally in the sixth made a winner out of Roof, who went five innings and allowed two earned runs. Head surrendered 11 hits and six runs (five earned) and was saddled with the loss.