CONYERS - Strong pitching and clutch hitting propelled Rockdale (2-0 overall, 1-0 in 8-AAAA) to a 5-0 victory over visiting Alcovy (0-1, 0-1) in the Region 8-AAAA opener for both squads Monday.
Mitch Farmer tossed six strong scoreless innings and his brother, Buck, hurled a scoreless seventh with three strikeouts to wrap up the victory.
Center fielder Nakeem Forte also played a key role in the victory, collecting two hits, scoring twice and gunning down an Alcovy runner at the plate.
The Tigers had a chance to do some damage against Mitch Farmer in the top of the first inning. Alcovy loaded the bases, but Farmer struck out Michael Aventurato to end the threat.
In the second inning, Farmer was bailed out by his center fielder Forte.
Alcovy's Taylor Jackson lined a single up the middle with two outs and runners on first and second, but Forte's perfect strike to catcher Kevin Dawkins nailed Cole Loggins at the plate for the final out.
"That was a big play by Nakeem, throwing the kid out at home plate," Rockdale coach Casey Martin said. "That could have led to a tie ball game or maybe even them up by one run. It was a great throw and he had it where we needed to make the out at home plate."
From that point, Farmer held to the Tigers in check, allowing only runners to reach second base in the next four innings. He finished the game with eight strikeouts, notching his first victory of the season.
"Mitch settled down and got his composure after the first inning," Martin said. "He didn't let anything bother him. He kept the ball down right where it needed to be, and he worked inside-outside real well. He had a good night."
Farmer also got some nifty play at shortstop from Jay Shirley, who turned in a couple of defensive gems, including a 6-3 double play where he ranged far to his left to make the play.
Forte got the Bulldogs' offense going in the bottom of the first. He singled to lead off the frame and scored two batters later when Buck Farmer's hard smash handcuffed the Alcovy first baseman.
Alcovy starting pitcher Beau Thomas matched Farmer pitch for pitch until the bottom of the fifth.
Rockdale's Rashaud Ferrell led off with a infield single deep in the hole at shortstop. After Ferrell stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, Forte smashed an RBI double into left center.
Forte plated the third run on a Kevin Dawkins' ground out.
The Bulldogs took advantage of an Alcovy error to strike for two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. With the infield playing in Ferrell singled up the middle to score Chris Sheridan and Marquize Warren.
For Alcovy, the story of the game was missed opportunities. The Tigers left nine runners on base, including five in scoring position.
"We did miss some chances. We had a chance to get to him (Farmer) early," Alcovy coach Joe Mobley said. "If we had gotten three or four (runs) on the board early, we'd have been right there at the end. I'm proud of the kids. They saw one of the top three or four pitchers in the region and our kids got up there and battled him."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.