All good things must come to an end, and end they did for the Covington Post No. 32 A’s as they exited the American Legion Southeast Regional Tournament much earlier than anticipated. Post No. 32 traveled to Asheboro, North Carolina with high hopes of a strong showing, but a pair of losses sent them packing and they were headed back to Covington by day two of the tournament.
Covington faced the North Carolina State Champions for their opening game at historic McCrary Park. The Shelby (NC) Post No. 82 team came into the tournament with a record of 44-2 and with seven players on their roster with college experience, they proved to be as good as their record indicated. Coach Bill Dallas had called upon his ace-pitcher, Gray Ritchey to handle the pitching duties for the game and he was up to the task as the Post No. 32 A’s went toe-to-toe with Post No. 82 through the first couple of innings and the game remained scoreless. Covington took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Ryan Sutton lead off with a single and was plated a couple batters later by a Zach Beggs single. Shelby answered right back in the bottom of the third by hitting two doubles that led to a pair of runs of their own to make it 2-1.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Ritchey found himself in some trouble allowing a pair of hits and issuing a couple of walks. He would exit the game with one out in the fifth, posting 7 hits, 2 strikeouts and 3 walks in his 4-2/3 innings of work. Beggs came on in relief to get the A’s out of the inning, but not before four runs would score and the deficit grew to 6-1. Covington was unable to generate any offense over the last three innings of the game as they only scattered a single per inning from Cale Brown, Blake Shope and Beggs respectively while the Shelby team also pitched around Domenic Bazzani each time after he doubled to the fence in the first inning. Beggs continued on the mound for Covington and pitched two scoreless innings to get them into the eighth inning. But Beggs now had his hands full after he hit the lead-off batter and allowed a pair of singles to load the bases. Beggs exited after 2-2/3 innings of work, allowing 6 hits while walking 2 batters. Hunter Phillips made an appearance for Post No. 32 by pitching the bottom of the eighth inning, but the damage had been done and Post No. 82 piled on with another five runs to end the run-ruled game by a score of 11-1.
On Friday, the Covington squad faced the Alabama State Champs, Tuscaloosa Post No. 34. Drew Buckhault was assigned the pitching chores for this match-up. Tuscaloosa got on the board early by manufacturing a run in the top of the first frame to take a 1-0 lead. Covington put a runner in scoring position early also as Dalton Reagin doubled to left-center field, but was left stranded as the next two batters were unable to advance Reagin. Covington bounced back by scoring a run of their own in the third with Sutton getting things started with a single, followed by a single from Brown and then an RBI ground out that plated the run to tie the game. Meanwhile, Buckhault was very effective, pitching scoreless second and third innings to keep the game in check. Tuscaloosa regained the lead in the fourth when a leadoff walk followed by a double scored another run to put the Alabama squad up 2-1.
Covington had some chances, but came up empty each time. Hunter Ballard singled in the fifth, but was cut down stealing third to end the inning. Sutton and Brown led off the sixth with singles to put men on first and second base with nobody out. But the heart of the order stalled and both men were left stranded. Meanwhile, Buckhault had given way to Shope on the mound. Buckhault’s numbers for his four innings of work were 4 hits, 1 strikeout and 2 walks. Shope kept Post No. 32 within striking distance by pitching scoreless fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Covington again threatened in the seventh as Hank Steele and Nick Womack both reached on singles, but they too were left stranded. Tuscaloosa put up an insurance run in the eighth inning, but it would not be needed as Post No. 32 was unable to put up any additional runs. The 3-1 score was sufficient to end the tournament hopes for the Post No. 32 A’s. Shope finished his day with 3 hits, 3 strikeouts and 3 walks over his five innings on the hill.
When reached for comment after the games, assistant coach Eddie Bagwell said, “If you told me before the tournament that we would only put up two runs in two games, I would not have believed it”. He continued, “But we are a first year team and we have brought Legion Baseball back to Covington and I know that we have built a strong foundation for the future.” Covington Post No. 32 finished the year with an overall record of 23-4.