The Norwalk junior located the strike zone early on before testing Norwalk coach Wes Douglas' patience in a three-run (all unearned) fourth inning in which he walked four and hit another Bellevue batter.
But Flowers settled back in and regained his command in the Truckers’ 7-3 win over the Redmen at Robert Peters Park in Bellevue.
With the win, Norwalk improved to 10-5 overall and 5-1 in the SBC Lake Division. Soon after the Truckers won, Perkins lost a lead in the seventh inning of a loss at Clyde — moving Norwalk back into sole possession of first place with four league games left this spring.
“He wasn’t all over the place and he wasn’t missing by much, and they were close pitches,” Douglas said of Flowers. “Now, if he was all over the place then maybe would have had to pull him, but Nolan battles. When he keeps his focus, he has a live arm. He wants to compete and win, so we will ride him as long as we can.”
Flowers finished the game with just one hit allowed — a leadoff single in the sixth inning by Kolton Ray. He had eight strikeouts and nine walks and completed every out for the Truckers except the last two, when he was replaced by Thomas Gfell, who got credited with a save.
Douglas pointed to the maturation process as part of what has helped Flowers lose command of his pitches — but then regain his composure and find the strike zone again.
“He has a lot of tools and a lot of talent. This year we have been working on trying to get him to keep his composure and he is really making big strides there,” Douglas said. “Last year and maybe even earlier this year he would have shaken his head at the umpire and lost his composure.
“But now he is able to work through it and coach (Wes) Miller is a great pitching coach,” he added. “The two of them have a good relationship and they are able to communicate with each other and work their way through things, it’s never easy.”
The Redmen (7-6, 3-3) entered the game with hopes of avenging an 8-7 loss at Norwalk and potentially tying the Truckers and Perkins for the top spot in the Lake Division. Instead, they fell two games back with time running on any hopes of winning the Lake.
Norwalk jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead through the top of the fourth inning.
Garrett Obringer led the game off with a single, and Nate Adelman drove him in with a double two batters later for a 1-0 lead. Ian Minor then walked, and both Adelman and Minor advanced to second and third on a passed ball.
An error on a ground ball hit by Tony Weisenburger then allowed both Adelman and Minor to score to make it 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, Leighton Battles drew a walk and Garrett Obringer was hit by a pitch. They both scored on an RBI double from Eli Obringer.
“I think this is a big momentum builder for us,” Douglas said. “We were coming off a string of three losses, and it’s nice to get the win here. But our league is pretty tough, and we have a lot of big games coming up. We have lost to some quality teams and have beaten some, too. It’s always nice beat a team like Bellevue to close the window (to a Lake Division title) a little.”
Dalton Ray put the Redman in the scoring column in the bottom of the fourth inning when he crossed home thanks to an error, four walks and a hit batter. Philip Putnam and Keegan Ray added runs of their own to give Bellevue renewed hope.
Norwalk slammed the door shut at its first opportunity in the top of the fifth. That’s when it scored a pair of runs thanks to a double by Kyle Smith that plated Luke Weaver and Weisenberger, who had both singled, to make it 7-3.
“We have had a couple of these games like that this year where we are pretty close and we’re not able to get runners in,” Bellevue coach Andy Dennings said. “Their kid (Flowers) did a nice job on the mound today and I thought we were able to get some good hard hits on the ball, but we weren’t able to get runs.
“We had chances in the field and we just didn’t get it done today,” he added. “All three of the games we have lost in the league we felt like they were close, and if we made the plays in the field and swung the bat better, we could have won. We will get it fixed and get better.”
Garrett Obringer finished 2 for 3 and scored two runs, while Adelman went 2 for 4 and Sam Battles finished 3 for 4.
Flowers allowed three earned runs and the one hit in 6 1/3 innings with the eight strikeouts and nine walks. Gfell allowed one hit and had a strikeout in recording the final two outs.
Jacob Montgomery lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits with a strikeout and two walks for Bellevue. Ray went the rest of the game and allowed two earned runs on six hits.
Norwalk 300 220 0 — 7 11 1
Bellevue 000 300 0 — 3 2 2
WP: Flowers; LP: Montgomery
2B: (N) Eli Obringer, Kyle Smith, Nate Adelman.