The American Legion’s Post 77 baseball team suffered its first loss of the season but still managed to come away from a successful AFLAC Classic baseball tournament in Albany this weekend, winning four of five games.
The Rockdale team lost 5-2 in the tournament opener to the North Florida Blacksox Friday, behind five errors.
Eric Smith pitched until the sixth inning, giving up just one earned run before Newton alumnus Trip Loftin came in to finish the game.
Errors continued to plague Post 77 throughout the tournament, as the Rockdale team totaled 12 in the event’s five games.
“That cost us the first game,” Rockdale coach Demarco Hamm said. “We were leading all the way until the next-to-last inning and had a couple of errors and mental breakdowns that cost us the game.”
Errors continued into Rockdale’s second game, with four. But Post 77 managed to avenge its first loss and begin a new winning streak in an 8-7 victory over the North Florida Blacksox.
Rockdale trailed 7-4 heading into the seventh and final inning, before scoring four runs in the bottom half. Rockdale finished with 16 hits, including two doubles from Keith Buckhault, who finished with six total bases.
David Mayo drove in Cole Hamilton for the winning run as Rockdale got its bats going and began settling down in the field. Post 77 struggled with its defense as several players were out of position due to the lack of starters able to attend the weekend tournament.
“We definitely should have won all our ball games, but we had some guys who were out due to sickness and vacations,” Hamm said. “We didn’t go there at full strength, but even at full strength, we should have won all our ball games.”
Post 77 won its next game 7-0 over the Georgia Blacksox, followed by a 5-4 victory over Leesburg and a 4-1 win over the Georgia Blacksox.
Rockdale scored 26 runs throughout the tournament, overcoming the change to wooden bats.
It is the first and only wooden bat tournament the team will participate in this season, something that didn’t alter Post 77’s approach.
The players welcomed the change rather than begrudging the loss of power from the standard composite bats they’re more familiar with.
“They wanted to use the wood bats,” Hamm said. “It’s something different. To be honest with you, we struck the ball pretty good with the wood bat, you couldn’t tell the difference.”
Rockdale travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a doubleheader today, before returning to regular season action at Dawsonville Saturday.