Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 22 Flowery Branch


Phil Kerber
Georgia Scouting Director

The Georgia High School Association has announced that opening day of the 2020 season will commence on Feb. 10. Programs were allowed to begin practicing in an official capacity on Jan. 13, meaning it's time for the PBR Georgia staff to break down the high school baseball scene in the state in the countdown to the first pitch thrown in 2019.Over the next several weeks, leading up to opening day, we will be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2019 spring season, touching on programs spanning multiple state classifications, counting down the official PBR Georgia Preseason Power 25 Rankings.

Our Preseason Power 25 rankings coverage starts today.

Team: Flowery Branch
Preseason Rank: 
22
2019 Record:
16-14
Region: 7-4A 
2019 Region Finish: 3rd 
GHSA Classification: 4A
Head Coach: Joey Ray
Playoff Run: 2nd Round
Returning Starters: 10 
Returning Pitchers: 6

KEy Players Lost
Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Zack Wagner GA Flowery Branch 2019 RHP Snead State 
TOP Players
Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Andrew Armstrong GA Flowery Branch 2020 LHP/1B Florida State
Zander Sechrist GA Flowery Branch 2020 LHP/OF Tennessee
Grant Lackey GA Flowery Branch 2020 OF Lee
Connor Larson GA Flowery Branch 2021 MIF  
JB Bell GA Flowery Branch 2021 MIF  
Kaleb Freeman GA Flowery Branch 2021 C/INF/RHP  
Jake Beaver GA Flowery Branch 2022 OF/LHP  
Baxley O'Brien GA Flowery Branch 2022 INF/C/RHP  
Top Newcomers
Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Tai Lizdas GA Flowery Branch 2020 RHP/OF
Austin Hatcher GA Flowery Branch 2021 RHP/OF  
Nick Linkowski GA Flowery Branch 2022 OF  
Mason Compton GA Flowery Branch 2023 INF/RHP  
X-Factor

With only one key player lost from last year's squad, Coach Joey Ray will be looking to replace the innings RHP Zack Wagner (2019; Snead State) accounted for. Two candidates to do just that and help propel Flowery Branch to a deep postseason run are: RHP/OF Tai Lizdas (2020) and RHP/OF Austin Hatcher (2021).

Lizdas started his high school career at Buford before transferring over to Flowery Branch. Last season, he split time between the JV and varsity squad, but this year he factors to be a large part of the Falcons pitching staff. The 6-foot-3, 165-pounder is capable of pitching in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball. Don't be surprised either if Lizdas impacts the game on the offensive side of things, as he is an overall athletic prospect and his swing plays in game. 

Similar to Lizadas, Hatcher stands a strong, sturdy 6-foot-2, 190-pounds and can sit in the mid-80s with his fastball. He complements his fastball with a 12/6 breaking ball that has shown depth to it. If these two are able to consistently throw strikes, Flowery Branch very well may have themselves one of the deepest pitching staffs in Class 4A. 

Outlook

Coach Ray has quite the luxury on his hands, returning 10 starters and six pitchers. The pitching staff will be far and away be the biggest strength for the Falcons with the return of southpaws Andrew Armstrong (2020; Florida State) and Zander Sechrist (2020; Tennessee). Very few, if any, pitching staffs in the state have two seniors who have the potential to be drafted this spring. 

Armstrong is equipped with the best breaking ball in Georgia's 2020 class, a sweeping slider that can start at a left-handed batters hip and end up painting the outside corner of the plate. Working from a low 3/4 slot, he complements his slider with a running fastball in the upper-80s and a changeup that at-times shows heavy fade.

Andrew Armstrong

Then there is Sechrist, who has the top changeup in Georgia's 2020 class, a bugs bunny like weapon that has all sorts of late fade and sink to it. Sechrist can then run his fastball into the upper-80s. These two will potentially form the toughest one-two punch in the entire state, and I feel sorry for any batter that has to face them.

Zander Sechrist

Behind these two studs are a slew of experienced varsity arms who will be called upon: Kaleb Freeman (2021), Jake Beaver (2022), and Baxley O'Brien (2022). Plus there are the two X-factor arms in Lizdas and Hatcher. Freshman RHP/3B Mason Compton may also see his name called in the pitching staff, and at the hot corner, for good reason. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound two-way prospect was up to 83 back in the fall, and there is certainly more in the tank.

On the offensive side of things, Lee University commit OF Grant Lackey (2020), MIF Connor Larson (2021), and MIF JB Bell (2021) will pace things. The biggest question for Coach Ray and the Falcons is can the offense put up enough run support. The top of the lineup will hold its own given how experienced they are, but will the rest of the lineup create a challenge. If they can, watch out, this Flowery Branch team will be built for a long haul and be competing deep into May.

Make sure to follow @PBRGeorgia on Twitter for the most-up-to-date coverage throughout the 2020 season.

Find more information on the 2020 Falcons below:

+ Full Schedule
+ Team Website
+ Team Twitter

Preseason Power 25 Countdown