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Covington team named Georgia American Legion champs
Left to right top row: Coach Eddie Bagwell, Bryce Fowler, Conner Hewell, Gray Ritchey, Bryce Shupe, Jonathon Lee, Ryan English, Carson McCallers, and Head Coach Bill Dallas. Left to right bottom row: Dallis Forsyth, Stevie Howard, Evan Meade, Blake Shope, Ben Davis, Ethan Womack, Chase Raines, Wes Snyder, Jackson Boss, and Hunter Lane. - photo by Submitted Photo

Covington’s American Legion Post 32 baseball team is the 2016 Georgia American Legion Champions. The Post 32 team won the Georgia State American Legion tournament in Albany, Georgia. The team will be representing Georgia at the Southeast Regional American Legion Tournament.

The Post 32 team, coached by Bill Dallas and Eddie Bagwell, has a roster made up of high school, rising college freshman and first-year college players. The team has three Eastside players: Gray Ritchey (P), Chase Raines (P) and Conner Hewell (P). The team also includes Blake Shope (P) from Covington Academy; Hunter Lane (DH) of Morgan County; Wes Snyder (OF) and Evan Meade (IF) of North Oconee; Stevie Howard (OF) and Dallas Forysth (IF) from Social Circle; Jonathan Lee (first base), Carson McCullers (second base), Bryce Fowler (C) and Ryan English (P) from Loganville; and Bryce Shupe (OF), Ben Davis (C), Jackson Boss (P) and Ethan Womack (P) from Walnut Grove. This roster includes seven players committed to playing college baseball and one current college baseball player.

Post 32 was the tournament favorite and No. 1 seed in their pool coming into the state tournament in Albany. The tournament was held at the Paul Eames Sports Complex, which was the former home of the Georgia Peanuts, a minor league team who dominated the South Coast League in 2007 and 2008. The sports complex is now or at least last week during the three-day tournament the home of scorching Georgia heat and the dreaded South Georgia gnats.

Post 32 had three close, one-run games. The first game of the tournament came down to the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs with Wes Synder on second base and the game tied 3-3. Stevie Howard hit the first pitch to right field for a walk off single to score Synder, who slid under the tag at home for the win.

In the second game, Post 32 was losing 4-1 before a two-run rally in the top of the seventh, which fell short of the game, giving them their only loss of the tournament 4-3. The Bats starting warming up in the hot Georgia sun for the next three games, winning the third game 7-6.

The semifinal game was a game of redemption for Post 32 against their only loss beating Leesburg White 9-0. In the championship game, Post 32 easily won 14-5 with a huge 6-1 lead in the first inning, followed by four runs in the fourth and sixth innings.

“I was proud at how our boys responded to the unexpected loss,” Bagwell said. “They got tough and fought back through the loser’s bracket to win in the finals.”

Offensively, Hunter Lane (10-15, .667), Stevie Howard (10-21, .476), Carson McCullers (9-20, .450) and Jonathon Lee (9-22, .409) led the team in averages, runs scored and RBI’s.

“Stevie and Lane both had a great tournament, and Jonathon had a good tournament, but we really came together as a team with our hitting especially the last three games,” Dallas said. “Our pitching was good. We have much more depth at pitching than we have had in the past. If our hitting continues to be strong and our pitching stays good than we are going to be tough to beat.”

As a team Post 32 went 65-203 with a .320 average, scoring 36 runs in five games. Dominant pitching was the key to the state title. Gray Ritchey pitched 10 innings, while Chase Raines pitched nine innings, Ryan English eight innings, Jackson Boss seven innings, Ethan Womack five innings, Blake Shope four innings and Conner Hewell with one inning pitched.

The Georgia Champs will be traveling to Asheboro, North Carolina to compete in the American Legion South East Regional Aug. 3-7. The Post 32 team who will be representing Georgia will face the state champions from Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Their first game will be against South Carolina.