CONYERS - It was a historic baseball season for Region 8-AAAA as three of the final eight teams in the state playoffs hailed from the region.
Unfortunately for Rockdale coach Casey Martin, his team was on the outside looking in.
At 13-12, the Bulldogs finished the season with a winning record, but in what was arguably the best region in baseball this season, it was just not enough to earn one of the four state berths up for grabs.
"It was definitely one of the best regions in Class AAAA this year," Martin said. "We were vying for that No. 4 spot with Winder-Barrow and Madison County. We had both of those teams beat, and we had Madison beat both times we played them, but we lost both games because of errors.
"Unfortunately, mental mistakes haunted us throughout the course of the season. We had some errors cost us a run here and there that could have ultimately won us the game."
But unlike last year, it wasn't a late-season collapse that cost the Bulldogs, but losses early in the season.
And no loss stung more than the extra-inning loss to Dacula.
"The first time we played Dacula, we struck out 33 batters in 13 innings, but offensively, we stranded 12 runners in scoring position," Martin said. "When you have a pitching domination like that and you don't win, it just doesn't say much about your offense."
Martin said he felt the lack of offense really hindered his team this season.
"Offensively, we didn't hit well as a team. Our first five guys in the lineup averaged around .330 to .345, but the average of the six, seven, eight and nine batters was probably closer to .200 to .220," he said. "Our first four or five guys hit real well, but after that, there isn't a whole lot going on.
"I think the main contributing factor to us losing some of those games was the lack of hitting and the lack of offense we produced. Buck Farmer and Kevin Dawkins accounted for most of the runs batted in, and it's hard when two guys account for half of the runs you score. If we could have had a team batting average of around .300, we would have won a lot more games."
Despite falling short in their goal for the state playoffs, one bright spot remains.
The Bulldogs did beat the state champion - Loganville.
"The Loganville win was big. It was a game where, defensively, we played our very best," Martin said. "We didn't hit the ball very well, and I have to give credit to the Loganville pitching, they pitched very well. Then again, our pitching was our strongest point during the course of the whole year. Buck (Farmer), Mitchell (Farmer), Kevin Masters and Landon Blackwell did great jobs on the mound. Defensively, we just had some situations where we didn't make a few plays."
Martin said he feels strongly that next year's team will succeed where this year's team fell short.
"I feel that we'll still be very strong next year, pitching-wise. We'll also be looking to make some changes in some of the off-season stuff we do that will hopefully help us hit better next year," he said. "We'll also need to do a better job of minimizing the amount of mental mistakes that happen over the course of a season."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org