LOGANVILLE -- It took a late-inning rally before Rockdale could put Douglasville away allowing Post 77 to become the Georgia American Legion baseball state champions with a 12-4 win at West Walton Park on Monday.
With the scored tied at 4-4 after seventh innings, Keith Buckhault (Eastside) hit a three-run home run over the left-center field wall giving Rockdale a 7-4 lead. Gary Preston and Randy Loew (Eastside) had a couple of RBI singles extending Post 77's lead to five runs in the top of the eighth.
"I think we finally wore them down. That home run by Keith was big, it don't get no bigger than that. I'm glad he got the (series) MVP. He worked out really good," Rockdale manager Jack Murphy said. "They played us tough, you have to take your hat off to them."
Douglasville still had plenty of fight left as they came back to load the bases with no outs. That was when A.J. Sunstrom came in and took the fight out of his opponents.
The first out came when he got the runner on second base caught in a rundown without the runner at third making a move to score. After striking out the batter for the second out, he got the last batter of the inning to pop out to Jake Wright (Eastside) to end the inning with their five-run lead intact.
"The pick off at second base when they had the bases loaded was his (Sunstrom's) call. When he was on the mound he talked to the shortstop about how he wanted to set it up. Then, bam, he did it," Murphy said. "That really took them out of the momentum. A base hit there and we're only looking at a three-run lead instead of five."
Not that they needed it, Rockdale scored three more times in the top of the ninth inning before Sunstrom sat down Douglasville in order giving Murphy his first American Legion state championship.
"I've been trying since I became head coach in 1995. I've been close a lot of times but this is sweet. I've been chasing that thing for a long time," said Murphy.
On the mound, Loew pitched 6 innings striking out one batter while walking three batters and allowing eight hits. Loew, who got the no decision, also had to combat three errors including one where Douglasville scored two runs in the sixth inning to tie the game.
"We made that big error (sixth inning), Murphy said. "If he gets that out, I think the whole thing is a different inning.
"You have to hand it to my guys, they fought back. They hit the ball."
Rockdale finished the game with 17 hits including seven going for extra-base hits.
Buckhault paced Rockdale going 4-for-6 (home run, triple) followed by Loew (3-for-6 -- double), Jeremy Sparks (3-for-6), Eastside's Jake Wright (2-for-3 -- double, triple) and Robert Bell (2-for-3 -- double).