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Ritchey twirls gem, Covington tops Rockdale for tourney title

DOUGLASVILLE - Gray Ritchey often pitches well beyond his years, and the right-hander did it again on Sunday. The rising junior at Eastside High School pitched a complete game, three-hitter and five different players drove in runs as Covington Post 32 defeated Rockdale Post 77 6-1 in the championship game of the 18th annual POW/MIA Tournament at Webb Field.

Covington bounced back from a 7-5 loss in extra innings to Rockdale Saturday, thanks in large part to Ritchey. He retired the first nine batters he faced, not allowing a baserunner until M.J. Boykin led off the fourth with single. That was one of just three singles allowed by Ritchey, who loaded the bases in that inning (Daniel Croom reached on Ritchey’s fielding error and Allen Bowen walked) before Cameron Ragsdale’s sacrifice fly got Rockdale its only run of the game.

Before that, Covington got all the runs it would need in the second against starter and losing pitcher Bill Woodruff. With one out, Blake Shope doubled and George Moll delivered a run-scoring single for a 1-0 lead. Cale Brown followed with a triple that chased home Moll for a 2-0 cushion.

Domenic Bazzani crushed a solo home run on Woodruff’s second pitch of the fourth and Covington led 3-0.

That was more than enough for Ritchey, who is one of Post 32’s three rising juniors - along with Alcovy’s Shope and Nick Womack of Eastside. He got a double play to end Rockdale’s threat in the fourth, then started an inning-ending, twin-killing in the fifth. Post 77, which had won its first three tournament games, including a 6-3 victory over Loganville Post 233 in the semifinals earlier in the day, didn’t threaten the rest of the way as Ritchey completed an 81-pitch gem.

Covington tacked on three runs in the seventh. Shope opened the inning with his second double and Heritage rising senior Moll ripped an RBI-single after failing to get down a sacrifice bunt. Later, Dalton Reagin tripled in a run and Drew Buckhault made it a 6-1 game when his single allowed Reagin to trot home.

The teams will meet again next Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Alcovy.

Post 32 battered three pitchers in rolling past host Douglasville Post 145 19-7 in the second semifinal of the day.

Douglasville starter Tyler Gaines was ineffective from his first batter (a walk to Brown) and Eastside rising senior Hunter Ballard and Shope delivered two-run hits to help the visitors build a 6-0 lead before Post 145 came to the plate. Thanks to eight Douglasville errors, Covington continued to tack on runs, though led just 11-7 before a huge seventh inning. Post 32 sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight times in the frame, capped by Zach Beggs’ three-run triple.