Demarco Hamm is in an unfamiliar position in a familiar place.
The first-time American Legion baseball manager is taking his Rockdale Post 77 team to the state tournament Thursday, somewhere his team has been before, quite successfully.
Rockdale won the state championship a year ago when Jack Murphy was manager and Hamm was his long-time assistant coach.
Now Hamm is calling the shots, and his team has found itself as a top seed when the brackets are released today for the Alpharetta-hosted tournament.
Post 77 finished the regular season 18-4 losing just one area game, against Buford, and is hungry for a second straight state championship.
"I can’t complain," said Hamm of his first year as manager. "We had a very good season, and now is the time of year when it really counts – the state playoffs."
Rockdale is ready on the field, having produced more than 14 runs throughout its last six games, going 6-1, including a victory by forfeit against Dawsonville Sunday. But, the team is also ready in the clubhouse, as Post 77 boasts several leaders who were there last year, when it lifted the state championship trophy in Loganville. Among those leaders are former Eastside stars Keith Buckhault and Jake Wright.
"I’m going to say Jake and Keith have been the team captains, catalysts and lead-by-example guys," Hamm said.
Buckhault and Wright have been big producers on the field for Post 77, leading in several offensive categories. Wright has a team-high .500 batting average, followed by Buckhault with .405 after the regular season. Wright also leads the team with 26 RBI. Fellow Eastside star Musashi Briem was also a standout for Post 77, hitting .400, just ahead of fellow Eagle Drew Buckhault, who hit .390 in the regular season. Cameron Ragsdale is Post 77’s leading power hitter with three home runs and 14 RBI.
"We have a very explosive lineup when we put our best lineup on the field," Hamm said. "We also have a pretty (deep) pitching staff. I’m pretty confident anybody I put out there will keep us in the ball game until our bats explode."
Eric Smith is the leader of that pitching staff, compiling a .98 ERA in 22 innings. Ragsdale has a 1.12 ERA and Casey Shubert 3.27, helping add to the staff’s overall ERA of 3.15.
Along with smashing the ball offensively, Rockdale has also been stingy in allowing runs, as opposing teams have scored just nine runs against Post 77 throughout the last seven games.
The offensive and defensive numbers have Post 77 and Hamm confident heading into Thursday.
"We ended on a good note heading into the playoffs," Hamm said. "And we have some guys from last year’s championship team where it isn’t their first rodeo. They know what I expect and what they expect. They should do well."