Post 32 wins state cham­pi­onship

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Be­fore the Amer­i­can Le­gion base­ball sea­son even started, coach Bill Dal­las had stated that one of his goals for the Cov­ing­ton Post No. 32 A’s was to win the Ge­or­gia State Cham­pi­onship. Dal­las and his team did just that over the week­end by de­feat­ing Albany Post No. 30 by a score of 8-3 in the cham­pi­onship game that was con­tested on Mon­day morn­ing.

Coach Dal­las and As­sis­tant Coach Ed­die Bag­well pre­pared the Post No. 32 A’s for the state tour­na­ment through­out the reg­u­lar sea­son by stress­ing the im­por­tance of do­ing well in their North Ge­or­gia Area Games. By do­ing so, the Cov­ing­ton team en­tered the state tour­na­ment as the No. 1 seed and was the ben­e­fi­ciary of a first round bye. In round two they were pit­ted against Albany Post No. 30, who had played well against the A’s in a tour­na­ment ear­lier in the year.

Round 2

Cov­ing­ton sent south­paw Dal­ton Rea­gin to the mound for the round two matchup against Albany and he was very ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient right from the start, as he and his de­fense kept Post No. 30 off the board through the first three in­nings with a mix of ground outs, pop-ups and strike outs. Mean­while, Tyler John­son pitch­ing for Albany was do­ing the same for his team un­til Cov­ing­ton broke through to take a 2-0 lead in the bot­tom of the third in­ning. Ryan Sut­ton got things started with a lead­off dou­ble, fol­lowed by Rea­gin help­ing his own cause with an RBI sin­gle. Rea­gin then went on to score when Hunter Ballard dou­bled down the left field line.

Albany an­swered back in the top of the fourth with a pair of runs to tie the score at two with a base hit that was fol­lowed by a botched fielder’s choice and another mis­cue that al­lowed one run and put the other in scor­ing po­si­tion. The score re­mained tied at two un­til the bot­tom of the seventh in­ning with Drew Buck­hault reach­ing on er­ror fol­lowed by a base knock from the bat of Hank Steele and then a walk to Sut­ton to load the bases. That set the ta­ble for Cale Brown’s RBI sin­gle to give the A’s a 3-2 lead.

Rea­gin gave way to Blake Shope on the mound in the eighth in­ning. In his seven in­nings of work, Rea­gin only al­lowed four hits while strik­ing out five and he did not walk a sin­gle bat­ter. Shope closed the game by cruis­ing through the eighth with a pair of strike­outs and a ground­out. With two outs in the ninth, there was a lit­tle ex­cite­ment as Cov­ing­ton

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al­lowed a bat­ter to reach first base on a mis­han­dled ball. That was fol­lowed by a dou­ble down the right field line that gave Albany hope as they tried to score the lead run­ner, but he was cut down at the plate by a laser-like throw from right-fielder Drew Buck­hault to the catcher Ballard. That se­cured the 3-2 win for Cov­ing­ton to al­low them to ad­vance in the win­ner’s bracket to the next round.

Round three

Round three found the Post No. 32 A’s fac­ing Lo­ganville Post No. 233. The top of the A’s order went three- up- three­down to start the game, but they bounced back to put up four runs in the sec­ond courtesy of base hits from Domenic Baz­zani, Zach Beggs, Nick Wo­mack and Brown. Gray Ritchey was as­signed the pitch­ing du­ties for Cov­ing­ton and he was solid from the start with a 1-2-3 in­ning of his own. Ritchey did give up a cou­ple of hits in the sec­ond in­ning, but also had a trio of strike­outs to end any threat.

The bats for the A’s were quiet through the third and fourth in­nings with only a Sut­ton sin­gle en­tered into the book. But the Cov­ing­ton of­fense roared back in the fifth with a sin­gle from Ballard sand­wiched be­tween dou­bles from Rea­gin and Baz­zani to make the score 6-0. The Post No. 32 A’s broke the game wide open with an eight-run sixth in­ning on the strength of dou­bles from Beggs and Buck­hault com­bined with sin­gles from Steele, Rea­gin and Baz­zani.

With a 14- 0 lead, Ritchey con­tin­ued to pitch the bot­tom of the sixth where Lo­ganville man­aged to avoid a shutout by get­ting a man into scor­ing po­si­tion and plat­ing a run. But the dam­age was done and Ritchey pitched a com­plete game ( seven in­ning run rule), rack­ing up nine strike­outs, giv­ing up six scat­tered hits and not walk­ing any bat­ters. The 14-1 win ad­vanced the Cov­ing­ton team into the cham­pi­onship game where they would await the win­ner of the loser’s bracket which had yet to play out.

Cham­pi­onship game

By re­main­ing in the win­ner’s bracket, the Post No. 32 A’s were re­warded with a day of rest, which helped to pre­serve their pitch­ing staff and kept all of the play­ers out of the 97-de­gree heat. Mean­while, in the loser’s bracket, Al­pharetta Post No. 201 put Lees­burg Post No. 182 out. Albany then dis­patched Al­pharetta to re­main alive and Dou­glasville Post No. 145 ad­vanced af­ter Rock­dale Post No. 77 was dis­qual­i­fied from the tour­na­ment and was forced to for­feit. Albany won their matchups with both Dou­glasville and Lo­ganville to work their way back to the cham­pi­onship game against Cov­ing­ton.

The Mon­day morn­ing cham­pi­onship game had a first pitch time of 10 a.m. and Cov­ing­ton Post No. 32 was the vis­it­ing team af­ter a flip of a coin. Rea­gin and Beggs gen­er­ated some of­fense with a pair of sin­gles, but were left stranded as the A’s half of the first in­ning came to a close. Baz­zani was on the hill for Cov­ing­ton and he was im­pres­sive as he faced the min­i­mum through four in­nings rack­ing up a half-dozen strike­outs and let­ting his de­fense take care of the rest.

The Post No. 32 team drew first blood in the sec­ond in­ning with a walk to Ballard that scored as a re­sult of a dou­ble off the wall belted by Buck­hault. The A’s then filled the bases when Albany was un­suc­cess­ful in get­ting the out at third in a sac- bunt/ fielder’s choice sit­u­a­tion, and then hit the next bat­ter. One run scored on a passed ball and another run scored on a Beggs sac-fly to give Cov­ing­ton a 3-0 lead. The A’s dou­bled their lead in the fourth in­ning with a trio of sin­gles from Steele, Sut­ton and Brown. All three would cross the plate thanks to a sac-fly from Rea­gin and a dou­ble from Beggs. Ballard sin­gled in the fifth and Brown dou­bled in the sixth, but both would be left stranded as the teams switched sides.

Albany be­gan to work their way back by scor­ing a lead­off sin­gle in the fifth in­ning. The top of their lineup strung to­gether three sin­gles, scor­ing another pair of runs to cut the Cov­ing­ton lead in half mak­ing it 6-3. Dal­las de­cided to make a pitch­ing change and Baz­zani ex­ited af­ter log­ging nine strike­outs, al­low­ing five hits and walk­ing three bat­ters. Shope came on in relief in­duc­ing a fly out and a field’s choice out be­fore the third out of the in­ning was made by Buck­hault again gun­ning a run­ner out at the plate by throw­ing a seed from deep right field to catcher Ballard.

Cov­ing­ton con­tin­ued to plug away in the sixth with a Buck­hault dou­ble and a sin­gle from Steele to add an in­sur­ance run. With a 7-3 lead in the top of the ninth in­ning, the A’s of­fense con­tin­ued to im­press with a Baz­zani dou­ble fol­lowed by a sin­gle from Shope. Steele gar­nered his third hit of the game with an RBI sin­gle plat­ing Baz­zani to make it 8-3. With Albany down to its last three outs in the bot­tom of the ninth, Shope closed out the game and the Cov­ing­ton Post No. 32 A’s were the Ge­or­gia State Cham­pi­ons.

Dal­las com­mented, “The en­tire team played well this tour­na­ment and I am proud of the way we pitched and ex­e­cuted plays in the field.” He con­tin­ued, “We ac­com­plished a goal that we set for our team, but we still have work to do at Re­gion­als.” At the con­clu­sion of the tour­na­ment, Shope was awarded the Tour­na­ment MVP award and Dal­las was awarded the Coach of the Year hon­ors for the State of Ge­or­gia.

By win­ning the State tour­na­ment, the Post No. 32 A’s are now qual­i­fied to play in the Amer­i­can Le­gion South­east Re­gion­als to be con­tested in Ashe­boro, North Carolina from Au­gust 6 - 11.

Sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Hank Steele rounds third base in the cham­pi­onship game.

sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Coach Bill Dal­las ac­cepts Amer­i­can Le­gion Coach of the Year (GA) award.

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