Following its first American Legion state championship since 1989, Conyers now prepares for the Southeast Regional in Sumter, S.C., on Thursday.
In our continuing coverage of Post 77's regional playoff run, Citizen sports writer Kurt Aschermann Jr. talked with head coach Eddie Bagwell on Monday as the team prepares to take on the South Carolina state champion, Irmo/Chapin Post 193, at 5 p.m. Thursday.
KA: The starting pitching was very good in the state tournament (each starter went at least six innings and picked up a victory). Do you expect it to continue at the regional level?
Eddie Bagwell: I think our starting pitchers gained great confidence (in the state tournament) throwing strikes, knowing they had a defense behind them. Every single pitcher got a bullpen (session) yesterday, (and) I like the frame of mind, the attitude. They're excited about this opportunity.
KA: Anthony Bazzani has been somewhat of an ace for your team, and after the state tournament, Kelvan Diaz and Brandon Thomas are playing the parts of a great No. 2 and No. 3. Left-hander Beau Thomas pitched well in the state tournament as well. What's the starting pitching plan for the regional?
EB: Nothing in stone yet, but Bazzani and then Diaz or Brandon Thomas in Game 2, Diaz or Thomas in Game 3. Obviously Beau Thomas still figures into this mix. We feel real comfortable whether we roll Diaz in Game 2 or Brandon. ... It's just phenomenal what they've been able to do for us. (Brandon) Crumbley, (Travis) Tarleton, (David) Lockwood, Tyler Austin - guys with a lot of experience and can give you that one or two innings or even one or two batters that you need. We're going to the Southeast Regional with 10 pitchers, (and) we're going in very comfortable with our first seven, eight guys.
KA: A handful of your best hitters, including Bazzani, Travis Tarleton and Brandon Crumbley, struggled in the state tournament. Any concerns?
EB: We preach to them all year long, "If you want to survive in this game, you've got to put bad days behind you, bad weekends behind you.' Hopefully they'll come out of it. At the end of the day, these guys are still 17, 18 years old.
KA: One of your players isn't 17 or 18 years old - catcher Chunk Smith. His absence (by tournament rule) left a big void, both on the field and in the leadership department, during a 1-2-2 run through the World Wood Bat Tournament in early July. What's it been like having Smith back the past month?
EB: Chunk is a very emotional player, but he's also ... upbeat and supports his teammates in the dugout. Take Chunk out of the mix, you have a different mind-set in the dugout. He's also a big bat (and) a good catcher. We're glad that was only one week long we didn't have Chunk.
KA: How are you and the coaching staff dealing with the week leading up to the Post's first regional tournament in 20 years?
EB: We're just being relaxed, we were loosey-goosey, encouraging. I think (the players are) very loose; that starts with us. If we're uptight, they're going to be uptight.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.