Rockdale’s Zach Bailey safely steals second base in the second inning of the Georgia American Legion semifinal game against Douglasville on Monday. (Staff Photo: Manny Fils)
ALPHARETTA — Errors and mental mistakes were abundant on both sides but Rockdale Post 77 was able to capitalize when it really mattered as Post 77 is just one game from winning its second consecutive American Legion state championship following its 15-13 win over Douglasville Post 145 on Monday.
Douglasville had six errors and several more throwing errors. However, Rockdale did not do much better with four errors and two throwing errors.
“The game shouldn’t have been 15-13, it should have been a lot less than that. I couldn’t tell you how many errors we made; I couldn’t tell you how many they made, but it was a sloppy game. I can say we put the ball in play and we hit the ball hard,” Rockdale head coach Demarco Hamm said. “It was sloppy on both sides but we caught a break and took advantage of it.”
Rockdale took an early lead and seemed to have Douglasville pitcher Chris Brown on the ropes taking a 5-0 lead while getting five hits through the first two innings.
“We hit the baseball. They had their ace on the hill the first four innings. For the whole season he has a 0.70 ERA. We came out and hit him well,” Hamm said.
But Rockdale allowed Post 145 to get back into the game when it had six hits, two Post 77 errors and two walks in the fourth inning to take an 8-5 lead.
After increasing its lead to 9-5 in the fifth, Rockdale came back to take the lead scoring six times in the home half of the inning to make it 11-9.
Keith Buckhault started the inning with a lead-off triple before a pair of walks loaded the bases. That was when Musashi Briem hit the ball into an open spot allowing two runs to score before a wild pitch made it 9-8. Post 77 tied the game off a Hunter Ballard sacrifice fly before scoring two more times on an error.
Sloppy defense again struck both sides as they traded leads. But a triple by Cole Murphy scored two runners in the seventh inning. Douglasville added one more to their tally, but Rockdale never gave up the lead, sending them to the state title game.
“It’s a big momentum boost. The guys can feel another state championship in their grasp. All they have to do is win one more game. We have four or five arms we can use to close it out,” Hamm said.
Rockdale used two pitchers with Cole Hamilton getting the win throwing 3 2/3 innings where he did not give up any hits while walking three and striking out three. Hamilton also helped his cause with an RBI single in the sixth inning.
“In the beginning, I was concerned, because if we happen to lose, we would have to win three games to win the ’ship. It would’ve been hard on the arms of my pitching staff so I’m glad we won,” Hamm said.
Rockdale had 15 hits in its win with Evan Alderman pacing Post 77 going 4-for-5 with Buckhault, Murphy and Briem getting two hits each.
“Evan came up big. He did what he was supposed to do, he’s the lead-off guy. He got on base and came around and scored,” Hamm said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Post 77 will try to repeat as state champions today at 1 p.m. at Alpharetta American Legion Post 201 with the if game being played at 4 p.m.