Conyers Post 77 wrapped up the No. 2 spot in next week's American Legion State Baseball Championship Tournament with a convincing 6-3 win over Canton Post 45, the No. 3 seed in the competition, on Tuesday night at Henson-Carr Legion Field. Conyers (24-6) will match up against the winner of a play-in game between the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds in the tournament, which starts in Douglasville at Hunter Park on Wednesday and runs until July 26. Conyers plays in-town rival Rockdale Post 77 in a regular-season ending doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. at Henson-Carr Legion Field this Sunday that has become inconsequential besides the bragging rights. Rockdale has already wrapped up the No. 5 seed in next week's tournament.
The state championships might be in less than one week, but the Conyers boys are already playing on a level that could spell trouble for all comers in next week's tourney.
"It was a good win," said Coach Eddie Bagwell. "We swung early, we swung late and we got good pitching from Kelvan Diaz."
Diaz pitched four innings of scoreless, one-hit ball to get back in the starting swing of things after more than a week off, and right fielder Ross Roberts and catcher Chunk Smith put on complementary clinics with their bats and gloves to seal the crucial win.
Offensively, the first inning statement from Roberts and Smith would set the tone for the rest of the game. In the field, the pair would do the same for the defense early - each throwing a runner out by the second inning.
Smith got his first big defensive play just two batters into the game when he threw out Canton's first base runner.
Then Smith picked up his bat.
Roberts - who finished the day 2-for-2 with three runs, a single, a double, two RBI, a pair of walks and two swipes of second base - walked in the Conyers half of the first inning. After a passed ball moved him to second, Smith - who finished 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI - knocked Roberts home with a searing two-base hit to give Conyers a 1-0 lead. First baseman Brandon Crumbley then singled Smith home, capping the first with a 2-0 lead.
After Roberts doubled off an out-of-place Canton base runner in the top of the second on a shallow fly ball, he smoked a single in the bottom half of the inning that plated two runs to the tune of a 4-0 Conyers lead.
After Smith threw out his second Canton base runner in the third inning and Roberts nailed another runner at the plate to end the fifth, the dynamic duo struck again on offense in the bottom of the fifth inning. Roberts took a walk to start the inning, stole second base and flew home after Smith clubbed his second double of the game, lifting Conyers to a 5-0 advantage.
Besides a rusty David Lockwood getting lit for three runs in the sixth inning on a two-run single by Canton starting pitcher Chris Wakefield and a home run by the visitors' right fielder Cam Pearson, Conyers cruised the rest of the way.
Anthony Bizzani closed out the 6-3 win for Conyers with two scoreless innings.
The Conyers team looked like one running, hitting and fielding on all cylinders ahead of the Legion ball state championships next week.
"I believe our guys will play hard and we'll see what happens," Bagwell said. "I make no secret that I lean on not one or two, but 16 players."