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State Champions
Home run lifts Post 77 to title
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The cliché goes good things come to those who wait.

In that case, Monday proves the state championship is one of the greatest things American Legion baseball has to offer.

Not only did Post 77 have to wait through 30 games to reach the state final, and then through seven innings before playing like the dominant team it has been, but its coach stood by for 23 years until he could hoist a championship trophy.

That was a lot of waiting, but in the end, the 12-4 victory over Douglasville proved to be worth it as Rockdale was crowned state champions for the first time since coach Jack Murphy became the team's head coach in 1995.

The post had lifted the trophy before, thanks to the now-defunct Conyers' team, but Murphy hadn't been able to claim a state crown after making a post season trip a regular occurrence, notching an undefeated season and going through another with just one loss.

Rockdale will now play in the Southeast Region tournament starting Aug. 9 in Sumter, S.C.

Following his state championship win, the reserved veteran was almost at a loss for words, and didn't want to leave the main field at Loganville's West Walton Park.
"I tell you what, it just feels great," Murphy said. "I've chased that thing for a long time.

"I've been trying since I became head coach in 1995 and I've been close a lot of times, but boy this is sweet."

Murphy led Rockdale through a 26-1 regular season, where they won several games in mercy-ruled dominating fashion.

When the state tournament began Thursday, the results were much the same with the first two games being 7-inning run-ruled shortened contest. Rockdale's second win of the tournament was a dominant 13-3 win over Douglasville.

Douglasville, however, brushed off the big loss and made it back to the title game of the double-elimination tournament through the loser's bracket.

When the two teams met again for the title, it started out looking like Douglasville had learned its lesson and Rockdale wouldn't be able to beat them for a seventh time in the 2012 season.

The score remained close with Rockdale's Randy Loew keeping the opposing bats at bay despite Post 77's inability to score.

After trailing 1-0 after three innings, Post 77 took a momentary lead in the top of the fourth as Fred Williams hit into an error by the second baseman to lead things off. He would score on a passed ball to tie the game. Rockdale then went up 2-1 on Loew's sacrifice to plate his catcher Robert Bell.

That was all Rockdale could muster throughout much of the game as it left 12 runners in scoring position through seven innings.

In the seventh inning, Rockdale again came back to tie it, this time on a RBI triple by Eastside alumni Jake Wright to score Williams, and a sacrifice fly by Bell to score Wright. The seventh inning showed a glimmer of Post 77's ability to hit in clutch situations, but the eighth broke open the flood gates.

Eastside's Loew led things off with a double before Cody Wofford walked. Another former Eastside standout, Keith Buckhault then came up to the plate with the order to bunt from his coaches. The bunt went foul and the sign was taken off.

Buckhault then got a pitch up in the strike zone and connected with a ball that sailed well over the center field fence.

"I fouled the bunt off up in the zone, and swung at the next one," Buckhault said. "(When I hit it), I wasn't sure but I knew it was deep."

Rockdale's bench exploded after the home run as the Post 77 players started to eye the state title.

"They played us tough," said Murphy of Douglasville. "You've got to take your hat off to them. I think we finally wore them down with Keith's home run. It doesn't get any bigger than that. That home run was major."

Rockdale followed the big three-run home run with a single by Jeremy Sparks' single, Cole Murphy reaching on an error and a walk to Wright. Douglasville walked Logan Smith with the bases loaded to score sparks and Loew finished the scoring on a single to drive home Murphy.

"After that, we just got hot," Buckhault said of his home run.

Rockdale, which replaced Loew with Greg Preston in the seventh inning went to A.J. Sunstrom in the eighth and ninth innings.

Sunstrom, who started Rockdale's tournament opener, finished things off with a strikeout in the eighth, and a big pick off at second base with the bases loaded and one out.

"The pick off at second base, that was his call when he got to the mound talking to the shortstop and second baseman how to set it up, that was a big play," Murphy said. "It took the momentum out of them."

Sunstrom came back on in the ninth and threw two more strikeouts, including the tournament-clinching out.

Former Eastside players had a big impact on the game as Buckhault finished with three hits, including a single, triple and home run, Loew had three hits and two RBI and Wright had two hits, two runs and two RBI.

"You got to hand it to my guys; they fought back, they hit the ball," Murphy said. "This is a wonderful feeling."