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American Legion Baseball: Rockdale rolls in opener
Seven-run first inning sets up 12-4 victory

CONYERS - In talking before the season, Rockdale Post 77 coach Jack Murphy was concerned his team wouldn't be able to produce enough offense. If opening night was any indication, Murphy shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Rockdale sent 11 to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, scoring seven runs and cruised to a 12-4 victory over Canton on Tuesday at Henson-Carr Legion Field.

The offensive outburst, which included seven different players knocking in at least one run, backed the strong pitching of Brandon Ward (5 IP, 3 ER, 4K), and helped Rockdale open the season in unfamiliar territory.

"Not a bad start," Murphy said. "Last year we were 0-3 (to start the season). It's a good start. (Ward) did real good ... kept the ball low."

The visitors took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Bryn Cloer's RBI-groundout, but Rockdale jumped all over Canton starter Shawn Haley in the home half of the first.

After Nathan Fawbush doubled to put runners at second and third with one out, Joseph Lester popped up a suicide squeeze bunt attempt that fell between Haley and second baseman Matt Stephens to tie the game. Two batters later, Micah Jones laced a three-run double to make it 4-1, and Marcus Smith later added a two-run double to put Rockdale up 7-1.

"We had a big inning; had a couple doubles there," Murphy said. "This is an experienced ball club. Guys like Micah, (who) had the big double, they were PO - pitchers only - (last year)."

Canton cut the lead to 8-3 in the fifth inning on Cloer's sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single by Haley, but Rockdale answered right away, going up 10-3 when Josh Flippen ripped a two-run single.

"We got everything we needed; we used a lot of players," Murphy said of his game one plan.

Rockdale's bullpen did a nice job of securing Ward's victory, pitching four innings of one-run ball.