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Timely hitting lifts Rockdale over Tigers
Rockdale County's Terrell McLaughlin, who finished 3-for-4 at the plate, knocks a single up the middle in the Bulldogs' 6-4 win over rival Alcovy. - photo by Matt Smith

No one would say Friday’s match-up on the diamond between the Alcovy Tigers and Rockdale County Bulldogs was the prettiest game ever played, but the Bulldogs overcame three errors and used timely hitting to put an important victory in the win-loss column, defeating the Tigers 6-4 on the road in region play.

The win keeps Rockdale in the hunt for a region title at 5-4 in Region 2-AAAAAA, while the loss evens Alcovy’s league record to 3-4.

The Bulldogs trailed 3-1 after the opening frame, but the Tigers committed five errors over the final six innings and Rockdale capitalized on Alcovy’s miscues, scoring five runs on five hits in the fourth inning.

Rockdale starter Will Hardy picked up the win on the mound, despite allowing four runs on three hits, but the Bulldogs’ offense was able to touch up Alcovy starter Dalton Reagin, who surrendered six runs on eight hits in five innings of work.

“We told the kids that if the ball was in the zone, get up there and start swinging,” Rockdale coach Justin Arrington said. “If we stand there and look at strikes, nothing good is going to happen. We wanted to put the ball in play and swing at good pitches early in the count and our offense did a good job executing tonight.”

Trailing 3-1 after three innings, Rockdale’s offense took control in the top of the fourth.

Designated hitter Jeff Sweat initiated the charge with a lead-off single to right field and left fielder Terrell McLaughlin, who finished 3-for-4 with a trio of singles, followed with a base knock to center field.

With two runners on, Jelani Clarington looked to advance the runner with a bunt, but Alcovy first baseman Blake Ernest misjudged his throw to the bag, hurling the ball wide left of first base. The throwing error allowed Sweat and McLaughlin to score, tying the contest 3-3.

Fueled by the Tigers’ miscue, Rockdale wasn’t done scoring yet, as Thomas Parker drilled a one-out single to right field that plated Clarington. The base hit gave Rockdale the lead for the first time since the top of the first inning, and the Bulldogs’ added another pair of runs on a Hardy ground-rule double, scoring Parker and Davis Foster after Foster reached on a single up the middle.

Reagin closed the inning with a pair of strikeouts, but Rockdale’s damage was enough to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 advantage.

Nanpon Ross pulled the Tigers to within two runs of the Bulldogs in the bottom of the fifth, blasting a solo-home run over the centerfield fence, but Alcovy was never able to recapture its first-inning spark, tallying just a pair of base runners over the final two frames.

Sweat came on in relief of Hardy in the sixth inning, giving up just one hit to Alcovy’s final seven batters.

“Hats off to Rockdale. Hardy pitched another great game,” Alcovy coach Ryan Denison said. “We just kind of let things snowball there in the middle innings and that was the difference in the ball game. We only had one fielding error, but the throwing errors came in pressure situations and hurt us. That shows our youth.

“We’re still not out of the playoff race and we still have a lot of teams in the region to go up against,” he said. “If we can knock off a few of those teams, we’ll be right there in the playoff picture. Once you make it to that second season, you never know what may happen.”

Hardy, who finished 2-for-4 on the night with two doubles and two RBIS, helped the Bulldogs pull ahead 1-0 in the opening inning, reaching base on a 1-out double to right field. The Bulldogs’ brought in the base runner on a Malachi Eskin ground out, but the Bulldogs’ lead was short-lived.

Alcovy responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, starting its scoring run with an Austin Richardson lead-off single. Richardson touched the plate on a hit-and-run attempt after second baseman Jessie Gilbert brought the right fielder home with a stand-up double, evening the score.

Brock Carter gave Alcovy a 3-1 advantage four batters later after Reagin reached on a Rockdale error and Ross reached on an infield single, bringing in both teammates with a two-RBI single up the middle.

Ross and Richardson both finished with multi-hit efforts for the Tigers.

Alcovy returns to action after spring break on April 14 at home against Morrow, while the Bulldogs take the field April 15 against the Mustangs.