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Johnson goes distance, silences Rockdale

LOGANVILLE - Facing a pair of his former high school teammates, along with the rest of the Rockdale Post 77 lineup, Alex Johnson was about as good Loganville Post 233 could have hoped.

Johnson pitched a complete game, four-hitter as Post 233 won 4-2 in American Legion play Tuesday at West Walton Park.

Johnson, a rising junior at Newton High School, allowed just one batter to reach second base after the third inning - Cameron Ragsdale doubled to open the top of the ninth - then calmly retired the final three batters in order on just four pitches to preserve the 104-pitch gem.

Facing former Newton teammates M.J. Boykin, Rockdale’s leadoff hitter, and No. 2 hitter Daniel Croom, who both graduated from the Covington school ealier this year, Johnson allowed a walk to Boykin to start the game and Croom’s leadoff single in the sixth. Otherwise, he handled his old prep ball mates in their other six combined trips to the plate.

It wasn’t just Boykin and Croom that struggled against Johnson. Post 77 took an early, 2-0 lead as Ragsdale chased home Boykin in the first with a sacrifice fly and Mitch Henley led off the second with a walk, and eventually moved to third on Nathan Greene’s double and scored on Salem High School graduate Cole Gibson’s sacrifice fly. But after that, it was all Johnson. He retired eight straight after Greene’s double, then after Greene had an infield single in the fourth, Johnson allowed only Croom’s single until Ragsdale started the ninth with his booming double to dead centerfield.

Rockdale starter Ryan Sims had one hiccup, but that ended up being the difference in a crisp game that lasted just one hour, 45 minutes.

Sims induced a double play ball in both the first - in which he started a nice, 1-4-3 twin-killing - and again in the fourth thanks to what looked to be a gift call at first from the base umpire. He also worked around a hit batsman and a stolen base in the second by getting a pair of strikeouts. Sims retired the final eight batters he faced in order, which included the double play ball hit by Newton graduate Tristan McInerny.

It was the bottom of the third inning that ended up costing Sims, and visiting Post 77 the game. Sims got two outs in the air sandwiched around a one-out walk to Bryce Seals, yet it was outs two and three that were the hardest to come by. Will Smith singled and Seals moved to third when right fielder Zach Moates misplayed the hit. Nathan Purcell, a rising senior at Alcovy High School followed with a high chopper that went for an infield single that scored Seals to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

Sims wasn’t as lucky in keeping in the ball on the infield on the next batter as Ben Fortner launched a three-run home run to put Loganville up for good at 4-2.

Post 233 didn’t collect another hit after that: Boykin made a diving catch of what looked to be a hit by Fortner in the sixth; facing Gibson in the seventh, Loganville appeared to be on the wrong end of a questionable out call on a pickoff attempt at first base and Gibson worked around a one-out walk and stolen base by Jon Milledge-Wells in the eighth.