It was quite a final day of the POW/MIA Tournament for Conyers Post 77 which battled back in each of its final two games to claim the championship.
Down 8-6 with one out in the top of the seventh inning of the semifinal game against local foe Rockdale, Travis Tarleton drew a bases-loaded walk and Anthony Bazzani followed with a two-run single that gave Conyers a 9-8 lead. Bazzani then retired Rockdale's 2-3-4 hitters in the bottom half of the inning to secure a spot in the tournament's championship. The wild times were only beginning.
In the title game against Dothan (Ala.) Post 12, a team Conyers pounded 24-4 a day earlier, Post 77 was once again trailing going into its final at-bat. No problem. Down 5-2 following Brandon Crumbley striking out Dothan's 3-4-5 hitters in succession in the top of the seventh, Conyers went right to work.
"The biggest thing was (Crumbley) came in to hold the lead at 5-2 and struck out (the) 3-4-5 hitters," Conyers coach Eddie Bagwell said. "That's what sticks out to me, the deadliest part of their lineup."
Leading off the bottom of the seventh, the newest member of the team, Ross Roberts, belted a solo home run to cut the lead to 5-3. That long ball was just the spark Post 77 needed, as Bagwell recalled.
"With Ross Roberts leading off the seventh with a home run (that) gave us so much confidence that we could come back," Bagwell said.
And come back they did. Nick Woodward and Cameron Gibson hit consecutive doubles to make it 5-4 and two batters later, Tarleton ripped an RBI-double to tie it at 5-5. After a walk to Bazzani loaded the bases, Crumbley followed with a run-scoring single that gave Conyers the tournament title. Bazzani, who threw six, one-hit innings in a Friday win over Gainesville, and Crumbley, had outstanding moments sprinkled throughout the tournament.
"What (Crumbley) did just doesn't happen very often," Bagwell said. "Where the top half (of the seventh inning) he sits down the meat of their order, then comes up with a game-winning performance in the bottom (half) in the championship game. It was huge. (Bazzani) had a great game Friday against Gainesville; he swung the bat good all week for us. He did well, he stepped up huge. I'm real pleased with where he's at at the moment for us."
And no rest for the tournament champions. Conyers gets a rematch with Douglasville, today in a doubleheader at Henson-Carr Field. Douglasville handed Conyers its only loss in five tournament games.
"We get right back after it with Douglasville ... I believe they have the best team in North Georgia; they have a phenomenal squad," Bagwell said. "I'm happy they battled back Sunday to win two games, but let's put it behind us and get ready to play Tuesday."
Bagwell has also seen his team, made up of some of the Rockdale/Newton area's finest players, begin to gel and trust each other on the field. It's something that has the longtime legion coach thinking big.
"(Conyers is) coming together and starting to understand they can do something special. This team has the makings, not saying we will, but they are starting to believe they can win it all, to do something that hasn't been at Post 77 since (the 1980s), winning state."