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Covington loses state title to Rockdale
2015 State Runner-up – Covington American Legion Post #32 A’s back row (l-r): Coach Bill Dallas, Dallis Forsyth, Matthew Childtree, Hunter Ballard, Hank Steele, Gray Ritchey, Mark Beddington, Bryce Shupe, Blake Shope, Coach Eddie Bagwell front row (l-r): Jordan Scott, Chase Raines, Jared Jones, Josh Fellows, Dalton Reagin, Luke Schwartz, Stevie Howard

The Covington Post 32 A’s entered this weekend’s American Legion State Baseball Tournament in Loganville with high hopes of repeating as State Champions. But Rockdale Post 77 also had aspirations of taking home the State title and did so with a 4-2 win in the Championship game on Sunday.

Covington started the four-day tournament strong with a lopsided 21-10 win over Leesburg Post 182. Matthew Childtree started on the mound for the A’s and was solid through four innings with five strikeouts before giving way to Hunter Ballard and Luke Schwartz to finish the game. Dallis Forsyth paced the offense with four hits, followed by Josh Fellows (HR) and Hank Steele with three hits apiece and Bryce Shupe, Blake Shope, Dalton Reagin and Chase Raines with a pair of hits each. Jordon Scott (HR) and Mark Beddington rounded out the offensive attack.

Saturday pitted Covington against local rival Rockdale Post 77 in a semi-final matchup that found Post 32 on the wrong end of an 8-3 score at the end of the game. Gray Ritchey was assigned the pitching duties for the game and he was brilliant through six innings, but a combination of some bloop hits and a trio of errors behind him yielded six runs for Rockdale. The Post 32 batters hit the ball sporadically throughout the game but were only able to string together enough offense to put three runs on the board. Fellows went 3-5 in the game while Reagin added a pair of singles and Shupe, Forsyth (2B) and Beddington each had a hit.

The loss put Covington in the loser’s bracket where they found themselves in a rematch with Leesburg on Sunday afternoon. Post 32 jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of a couple of walks and a Reagin single and they never looked back. Covington added to their lead in the second and third innings with Shupe, Fellows(2B), Scott, Ballard, Reagin and Beddington swinging the hot bats for the team making it 8-0. Leesburg scratched out a run on a Covington error, but with Steele, Shupe (2B), Fellows (2B) and Reagin (2B) each logging another hit, the 11-1 score invoked the run-rule after seven innings of play. Chase Raines pitched the entire seven innings for Covington, giving up only three hits while striking out four batters and walking five men.

The victory over Leesburg moved Covington into the Championship game where they would again face Rockdale. Post 32 Coach Bill Dallas gave the ball to the southpaw Reagin for the championship game pitching duties and he went to work in the mid-90 degree Georgia heat. Rockdale threatened in the first with runners on first and second and only one out, but Reagin stepped off and got the Rockdale runner in a run-down that ended with both runners being tagged out in the inning ending double play.

Covington posted a run in the bottom of the first to take the early lead with Forsyth plating Shupe. But Rockdale answered back with a pair of runs in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead. Rockdale added another run in the fourth inning and then Covington kept the game close by manufacturing a run in the fifth with Steele being sacrificed over to second and then scoring on a single from the bat of Shope to make it 3-2.

Reagin kept grinding it out on the mound, pitching around a couple of errors behind him and keeping his team within striking distance. Post 32 mustered hits from Beddington, Shope, Forsyth and Reagin, but they were spread out through the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as Rockdale pitcher Bill Woodruff was keeping the Covington hitters off balance and off base. Post 77 added an insurance run in the seventh inning with leadoff Yorel James ripping a triple and then scoring on a Matthew Hammer single.

Down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Covington squad looked poised to rally with Raines hitting a single and Shupe reaching on an error. But with two on and nobody out, the top of the lineup went down in order to end the game. Post 32 left 11 runners on base in the game with Fellows going 3-for-5 and being stranded each time. Reagin pitched his heart out in the complete game effort that yielded eight strikeouts, two walks and nine hits in his nine innings of work.

Coach Dallas commented that “Dalton looked great out there today and he gave me everything he had.” While disappointed with the outcome of the games against Post 77, Dallas said, “We had great pitching from our top two guys, but we just did not hit the ball like we are capable of.”

The Covington Post 32 A’s finished the season with a record of 14-4-1.

“Our kids had a great summer and I enjoyed coaching this group,” said Dallas. Rockdale Post 77 will represent the State of Georgia in the American Legion Southeast Regional Tournament in Asheboro, NC on August 5-9.