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State championship sweet victory for Legion coach

CONYERS -- It took a while, but Rockdale Post 77 manager Jack Murphy is finally taking a baseball team to the American Legion Southeast Regional Tournament after winning the Georgia state tournament for the first time in 16 years.

Post 77 will start the tournament against the 34-5 team from North Carolina at noon Thursday at Riley Park in Sumter, S.C.

Murphy started as an assistant for then-Post 77 manager Marvin Wicks in 1991. Of course, it wasn't all glamour for Murphy in his first year.

"My job was to take care of the field when the team was out of town to get it ready for the home games. The second year he let me sit in the dugout," Murphy said. "Then the third year I was full-time assistant coach,"

Wicks stepped down in 1995 and Murphy was offered the position. He was the manager for 10 years before stepping down and handing the reins over to Eddie Bagwell in 2005. However, Murphy felt he had plenty of baseball left in him as he returned a year later. But with Bagwell still the manager of the Conyers team, there was only one thing left to do.

"They (Post 77) talked about doing a junior team here but I never was a big fan of junior Legion (baseball). I said if I'm going to do that let's get another senior team since we're hurting for senior teams in Georgia. I said I'll come back and coach it," Murphy said.

Even though Bagwell won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, Murphy was still without a title -- until this year. Unfortunately for Murphy, he didn't have time to enjoy his trophy.

"It felt great. When I talk about it I still get goose bumps. We had a couple of days to enjoy it then we had to get things ready to head to the Southeast Regional Tournament," Murphy said. "We're looking forward to that."

Post 77 is going to have to be ready for anything as they get ready to start the tournament against North Carolina (Wilmington).

"We were the dominant team in Georgia this year. We had some tight games and we run-ruled teams. This teams knows how to run away with it and they know how to come from behind. These guys never give up," Murphy said. "As long as we have life left we're going for it. That's their attitude. It doesn't have anything to do with me, they have it within them to do that stuff."

One thing that Post 77 has not done is go into a slump. It seems that if a player or two starts to go down, another two or three tend to step up. One hitter that is keeping the team heading in the right direction is Keith Buckhault (Eastside). During the state tournament, Buckhault went 15-for-19 for a .789 average.

"Our hitting can definitely keep us in a ball game. The way we're swinging it right now, we're all clicking at the right time. There's not a weak spot in our lineup. When anybody comes up, I'm expecting them to get a hit," said Greg Sparks, a member of the 2005 and 2006 Murphy team.

One thing about Murphy, he will not expect anything less than perfection when it comes to his team.

"You have to play the best game of your life, because that other side is coming out there to compete as hard as they can. We have to hope that our bats are hot and our pitching is going to be good and the defense is going to be good," Murphy said.

"I don't give pregame speeches and I don't give speeches afterwards. I always thought those pregame speeches have a tendency to make you tighter. My philosophy is come ready to play and we'll go out there and do the best we can."