SUMTER, S.C. - Pinch-hitter Terrance Dedrick hit a go-ahead, three-run home run off David Lockwood in the top of the ninth inning as Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Post 34 stunned Conyers 7-4 in the winner's bracket final of the American Legion Southeast Regional at Riley Park.
After starter Brandon Thomas pitched eight innings of three-run ball, Conyers gave the ball to Lockwood rather than regular closer Brandon Crumbley. And it cost the Georgia state champions dearly.
Hunter Trawick led off the ninth with his third hit of the night, a double to left field and Lockwood hit Jon McKinney with a pitch. Christo Sullivan struck out, but Dedrick ran the count full before depositing Lockwood's fastball over the left-center field wall. Three batters later, Tuscaloosa added an insurance run on Rob McWhirter's run-scoring single.
"They feel a little kicked in the gut," Conyers coach Eddie Bagwell said.
Trailing 3-1, Conyers had taken the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on two clutch hits. Travis Tarleton roped a two-out, two-run triple to tie the game, and following a walk to Crumbley, Taylor Jackson reached on an infield single that scored Tarleton and gave Post 77 a 4-3 lead. The rally also hurt Conyers as it kept Crumbley on the base paths and didn't allow him to warm up before the ninth.
"I'm not happy with what happened," Bagwell said. "Frankly, we should've had Crumbley warmed up but we didn't. That's my fault."
Thomas was knocked around in the first inning as Chase Fields, Jake Vickerson, McWhirter and Carmen Carlisle had consecutive hits to start the game, the last two of which produced runs.
Trawick later added an RBI-groundout and Tuscaloosa led 3-0.
Thomas settled down after that, surrendering four hits in his final seven innings. Post 34 starter Alex Aultman was even better, allowing Thomas' sacrifice fly in the second and little else before giving up the lead in the eighth.
Conyers had plenty of chances to cut into Post 34's lead. Thomas led off the fifth inning with a single, but Nick Woodward popped up a bunt attempt and Aultman, one of the top fielding pitchers in the tournament, doubled Thomas off first. Aultman made another nice play to end the sixth, throwing out Chunk Smith on a bunt attempt. Conyers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Aultman induced a double play out of Woodward to end the threat.
With its first loss in nearly a month, Conyers now faces the difficult task of having to win three consecutive games to capture the region crown. Post 77 plays Rowan County (N.C.) Post 342 in an elimination game at 1 p.m. today.
"We can't come in tight. The pressure is on them just like it's on us," Bagwell said. "If we still linger on today's game, that's not going to do us any good. We have to put it behind us and move on."