American Legion Post 77 picked up two wins and much more Saturday in the penultimate series of the regular season.
With a 7-5 win over Douglasville in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader, Post 77 clinched the top seed in this week's state tournament and found a new weapon to throw at opponents.
Rockdale then found the will to win in the night cap 4-3 rallying from a three-run deficit with just three runs to play. Along the way, Post 77 also displayed an offensive juggernaut in Cole Murphy, who had a total of five hits on the day.
"I've been hitting lately trying to get hot," Murphy said. "It's good to get hot again. I just want to get my (state championship ring)."
Rockdale led most of the way in the first game after scoring two runs in the third and then two runs, again, in the fourth. Douglasville did not threaten until the fifth inning. With the lead having been shrunk to just one run, 6-5, in the sixth inning, Rockdale coach Jack Murphy went to the bullpen in relief of Matt Anderson.
He called on A.J. Sunstrom, who hadn't pitched since June due to a sore arm. He quickly shook off the rust striking out all three batters he faced with a well-located fast ball and devastating-to-Douglasville breaking balls.
In the top of the seventh inning Sunstrom gave up a hit, on a double, but recovered to strike out the final batter.
Sunstrom was one of several players looking to shake off rust, as Post 77 hadn't played in over a week.
"We were a little rusty," Post 77 coach Jack Murphy said. "We were just fortunate that we won. Pitching saved our butts again."
Cole Murphy had three hits, including a double in the first game.
In the second game, one-loss Rockdale looked like it would drop a second as its bats struggled early. Up until the fifth inning, Rockdale left six runners on base.
To open the second inning, Dalton Schillings led off with a single, but when Dalton Thrasher stepped up to the plate as the inning's second batter, Jack Murphy noticed a discrepancy on the lineup card.
After conferring with the umpire and Douglasville's coach a batting order error was discovered as Thrasher and Schillings' jersey numbers were reversed. Thrasher was called out and Schillings had to bat once again. This time, Schillings grounded out to the first baseman and Ryan Knight rolled through the rest of the inning.
Douglasville put up three runs in the top of the fourth inning during the second game thanks to two hits to lead off the inning. Tyler Landman led off with an infield single, followed by another base hit by Brian Campbell, which bounced off pitcher Knight's outstretched glove.
Schillings then brought both home with a double. Shillings came home as Rockdale's catcher threw to second to catch Jordan Lee stealing.
Rockdale, which hasn't lost in area play, didn't trail for long, putting four runs together in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Randy Loew led off with a single, followed by an RBI double from Keith Buckhault. Jeremy Sparks followed suit with an RBI double of his own, scoring Buckhault. Sparks came home on Robert Bell's single, and Jake Wright hit a fly ball to right field to score Cole Murphy with the go-ahead run.
"These guys don't give up," Jack Murphy said. "They're good solid baseball players."
Cole Murphy, who made it 4-3, reached on an intentional walk by Douglasville's Trevor Billings trying to prevent yet another hit by the shortstop.
"I wanted a sixth hit," Cole Murphy said. "We just bear down."
Cole Murphy had hits in each of his at bats on the day before being given a free base.
Billings lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits, while walking three and striking out four. Knight pitched the complete game for Rockdale, striking out seven.
Rockdale closes out the regular season with a doubleheader against Peachtree City. The top-seeded Post 77 will begin the state tournament this week, most likely Thursday in Loganville.