Conyers Post 77 came into postseason play with a bang.
Unfortunately, they left with one too.
Coach Eddie Bagwell’s squad, who won the American Legion Georgia State Championship at the end of last month, saw its Southeast Regional Legion Tournament run come to a crushing end with a 13-0 rout at the hands of the North Carolina Legion champs, Rowan County on Sunday.
"We enjoyed it and had a great experience," Bagwell said. "But now we’re back home. First and foremost, what we’ve preached all along is pitching and defense. We had that — just not quite enough of it."
The loss came a day after Conyers’ shocking, ninth-inning loss to the Alabama Legion champs from Tuscaloosa.
In that game, Conyers brought in David Lockwood instead of usual closer Brandon Crumbley to finish things off in the ninth with a 4-3 lead, as Crumbley was still a part of the Conyers lead-gaining rally the previous half inning and didn’t have time to properly warm up.
Tuscaloosa made them pay for that move.
After two runners got on, Tuscaloosa brought in pinch-hitter Terrance Dedrick to the plate.
A battle ensued and, after Lockwood’s 2-2 curveball on the edge of the zone was called a controversial ball, Dedrick clubbed the next pitch over the wall for the game-winning three-run homer.
"Crumbley was on second base when we took the lead," Bagwell recalled. "We hadn’t even thought about warming him up when we were down, and I didn’t feel good about sending him out there cold. We got stuck between a rock and a hard place."
That proved to be the difference in Post 77’s first postseason loss of the year. In the end, Bagwell couldn’t easily forget that 2-2 curveball for a strike that could have been.
"We thought we had him on that 2-2 pitch," Bagwell said. "It was a little high, but that would have been it because (Dedrick) had zero chance of hitting that pitch. We were a strike away from being in the driver’s seat."
Since the tournament is double elimination, Conyers had an outside chance at a run through the losers bracket to force another shot at the Southeast Regional title.
Those hopes ended with a 13-0 throttling against Rowan County that was over by the fourth inning.
After starter Travis Tartleton gave up two runs in the first inning, Conyers saw leadoff hitter Trey Holmes hit a three-run homer to help Rowan County to a 7-0 lead after two innings.
"Travis had the toughest assignment of the tournament," Bagwell revealed. "(Rowan County) was a very aggressive hitting team. Not to take anything away from anyone, but when you get into the fourth game you are putting your fourth best starter out there, and that just didn’t get it done."
A Holmes double in the fourth was one of four RBI provided by Rowan County in the inning, giving the North Carolina squad an 11-0 lead after four frames.
Rowan County infielder Philip Miclat plated two runs with a double the next inning to seal the scoring for the winners.
The explosive Conyers lineup managed just four hits in the game, and pitchers Beau Thomas and Tartleton allowed 11 earned runs in three innings pitched.
Conyers outscored opponents 5-0 in the tourney’s first two games, and were outscored 20-4 in the team’s last two contests.
"I never thought in a million years we would have so many guys get into a slump at the plate at the same time," Bagwell said. "But that’s baseball."
But now, after the amazing Conyers American Legion tourney run has finally come to an end, there is just praise for what was accomplished.
Conyers reeled in its first state championship in 20 years, the second state title ever for the post and the squad is the first Georgia team to win more than one game at the Southeastern American Legion Regional tourney since 2001.
"I feel honored that myself and my coaches, Jody Gilbert and Scott Tartleton, had the opportunity to experience this thing with such a great group of young men on and off the field," Bagwell said. "We are going to do everything in our power to do it again next year."
With things all wrapped up, there aren’t many regrets for anyone involved.
No regrets, but maybe a wish.
"I wish I’d had a fortune teller let me know I should warm up Crumbley in that eighth inning," Bagwell said with a laugh.