Bazzani strikes out 8 in Conyers win at regional

SUMTER, S.C. - It's safe to say South Carolina's state champion saw all it wanted to see of Anthony Bazzani on Thursday.

Bazzani pitched a complete game three-hitter and struck out eight, dominating Chapin Post 193 in a 3-0 first-round victory in the American Legion Southeast Regional at Riley Park.

Bazzani, an Eastern Kentucky signee, was masterful from the start and didn't allow a runner past second base in a 111-pitch gem.

"The weather was nice. I stayed loose, I just went out there and tried to have fun," said Bazzani, who followed up his eight-inning, 11-strikeout performance in the state tournament against Canton with the win.

"Unbelievable performance. ... Game 1, Southeast Regional ... (Bazzani) pitched his tail off," coach Eddie Bagwell said. "You can't say enough. He's the MVP of the day."

While Bazzani was carving up Post 193's lineup, Conyers got to starter Chad Balderman in the fourth inning for the only run it would need. Ross Roberts laced a double to start the inning, and Cameron Gibson followed with a double of his own to make it a 1-0 game.

In what has become a staple of the Conyers club, the defense was excellent behind Bazzani. Shortstop Nick Woodard made a heads-up play in the third, throwing out Garrett Driscoll at third base on a ground ball. In the fifth, catcher Chunk Smith gunned down Chapin leadoff hitter Alex Kirby trying to steal to end the inning. After a six-pitch sixth inning, first baseman Brandon Crumbley made a pretty feed to a covering Bazzani to end the frame, and Woodward made a dazzling play up the middle in the eighth to throw out Michael Huff by a step at first base.

"We demand out of ourselves to play good defense," Bagwell said. "They're stepping it up."

"We take pride in our defense," Travis Tarleton said. "It's exciting because you know 'Ant' has so much movement, you're going to get ground balls."

Conyers, which hasn't lost in nearly a month, added to its lead late in the game with a handful of slump-busting hits. In the sixth, Tarleton, just 3-for-17 in the state tournament, roped a two-out single to put runners at first and third. Crumbley (3-for-14 at the state tournament), followed with a run-scoring single to give Conyers a 2-0 cushion. An inning later, Tarleton ripped an RBI single to make it 3-0.

"I felt good doing it for 'Ant' because he pitched his butt off," Tarleton said.

"A different Travis from state to the Southeast Regional," added Bagwell. "He's back to where we want to see him. Good sign for the rest of the tournament."

With the win, Conyers stayed in the all-important winner's bracket and next plays Bayamon (Puerto Rico) Post 48 at 5 p.m. today. Right-hander Kelvan Diaz, who threw one-run ball in 72/3 innings against Douglasville in the state tournament, is scheduled to pitch.

"One game down and it's a relief," Bagwell said. "Puerto Rico tomorrow; we'll see what happens."

Kurt Ascherman Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.com.