Coach Bill Dallas took his Covington's Post No. 32 Athletics to Albany over the weekend to compete in the Annual Paul Eames Tournament.
Covington Post No. 32 had good reason to be confident, going into the tournament with a record of 8-1. Matching up against teams from Georgia, Alabama and Florida, the Post No. 32 squad put together an impressive string of five consecutive victories, but the team needed a sixth win to take the title and came up just a little short in the championship game against Jacksonville Post No. 88. Being on the wrong end of the 4-3 score netted the Covington team a second place finish among the 11 teams entered into the tournament.
The Post 32 roster has 17 players, four of which call Heritage High School their home. Heritage players, Ryan Sutton, George Moll and Domenic Bazzani played well in the tournament, reprsenting their school in Albany.
Game No. 1
Pool play began on Friday with a game against the Albany Post No. 30 (jr.) team. Hunter Phillips got the start for the A's and pitched into the fourth inning, but with Post No. 30 pulling ahead, he was relieved by Sutton who also struggled a bit to find the strike zone. Behind 4-0, Dallas called upon Blake Shope to shut things down and give the A's offense a chance to rally. With three consecutive singles off the bats of Nick Womack, Cale Brown and Dalton Reagin, the Covington boys were mounting a threat. Drew Buckhault, who had already been on base twice in the game with a single and a double, drew a walk this time up to set the table for Bazzani to launch a bases clearing double. Moll also contributed with a single to drive in a run and give his team a 5-4 lead. Post No. 32 added an insurance run in the sixth inning to seal the 6-4 win.
Game No. 2
Jacksonville Post No. 283 was the next opponent for the A's. The Covington team jumped out to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning courtesy of singles from Hunter Ballard, Moll and Brown. Meanwhile, Bazzani had everything under control from the mound and was cruising through their lineup. Bazzani helped his own cause with a single in the third inning followed by Ballard and Moll each reaching on singles to plate another pair of runs making it now 5-0. Shope and Sutton singled in the sixth and were left stranded, but it was of no consequence as Bazzani had already racked up 13 strikeouts on his way to the shutout win.
Game No. 3
Saturday's schedule started with an unruly Tallahassee Post No. 13 facing Covington's Reagin on the mound. The lefty was effective early on and had good run support with Post No. 32 staking him to a five-run lead in the top of the second inning. With bases loaded and one run on the board already, Sutton came to the plate and could hear the mouthy dugout calling him out. Undeterred, he belted a double to the gap to clear the bases. It would be his first of three hits in the game. Reagin continued to frustrate the Post No. 13 batters and as he logged his fifth strikeout of the game to end the second inning, the Tallahassee player was ejected from the game after a disparaging remark to the umpire. Tallahassee got sloppy in the field and on the mound as Covington continued to keep putting up runs. Reagin gave way to Buckhault on the mound for Post No. 32 after a couple of runs had crossed the plate for Tallahassee, but it was too little, too late as Post No. 32 notched the victory by a score of 11-5.
Game No. 4
Facing a young Wiregrass Team from Dothan, Alabama, the Post No. 32 team again started strong as Sutton led the game off with a double followed by doubles from Shope and Moll to give the team a 2-0 lead. Hank Steele was assigned the pitching duties for Post No. 32 and threw three innings of shut-out baseball while his teammates kept increasing the lead on offense. Covington added two runs in the third with a leadoff walk to Davis Wheeler scoring and a double from Buckhault that would also come home. In the third inning the offensive contributions came from three doubles off the bats of Womack, Wheeler and Sutton. Zach Beggs collected an RBI in the fourth inning when he too hit a double. Wiregrass put up a couple of runs in the fourth inning and as Steele started to struggle with the strike zone in the fifth they added another three runs to cut the lead in half at 10-5. Covington plated another five runs in the sixth inning as the Wiregrass team went through their entire pitching staff. Moll came on to close the game out and secure the 15-6 win for Post No. 32.
Semi-Final Game No. 5
The four pool play victories made Covington the top seed from their side of the bracket as they entered elimination play on Sunday matched up against the host team, Albany Post No. 30. Chris Moseley (Lee County) sat down the top of the Post No. 32 lineup in order to begin the game as did Covington's starting pitcher Gray Ritchey. Albany then scored its only run of the game in the top of the second after a walk was issued and then driven in on a sac-fly. Ballard singled and scored in the second to tie the game at one. Ritchey was superb as he kept the Albany batters guessing while also pitching very efficiently to keep his pitch count low. Covington added another run in the third with Sutton drawing a walk and being moved around to third on a Brown single before being driven home on a Reagin sac-fly to take a 2-1 lead. The A's added an insurance run in the fifth with Buckhault reaching on a base hit and scoring on a single from Bazzani. Ritchey pitched deep into the seventh inning, recording 6 strikeouts while giving up 6 hits before being relieved. But with bases loaded, two outs and the game on the line, Zach Beggs came in for the save and recorded the final out in the 3-1 victory to send the A's to the championship.
Championship Game No. 6
The game time temperature was 97 degrees and every gnat from the Greater Albany area was in attendance for the Championship game pitting Covington Post No. 32 against Jacksonville's Post No. 88. Neither team scored through the first two innings although Buckhault generated some offense in the top of the first with a two-out double, but was left stranded as the inning came to a close. Shope was tagged to start on the mound for Covington and the right-hander had a 1-2-3 first inning with some help from his defense and pitched a scoreless second recording a pair of strikeouts. Post No. 32 took a 1-0 lead in the third inning with a Wheeler single scoring on a base hit from Reagin. A leadoff double from Bazzani would come in to score in the fourth to make it 2-0. Shope again cruised through the third and fourth innings picking up another pair of strikeouts while facing the minimum. Jacksonville sent a couple of fly balls to left field and a single to right field to tie the game at 2 apiece after five innings. Covington regained the lead in the sixth inning with a Beggs double and a Steele sac-fly, but Jacksonville answered back in the bottom of the inning by scoring a run of their own. Reagin's single made him the lone base runner for Post No. 32 in the seventh inning, but he was left stranded. Jacksonville put a man on base with a leadoff hit and then a sac-fly plated the winning run for Post No. 88.