CONYERS -- Conyers Post 77 hasn't gotten the dominant pitching it enjoyed during the state championship run in 2009, but so far it hasn't mattered.
The offense has scored 57 runs in three state tournament games and heading into today's title game against Douglasville Post 145 (1 p.m. at West Walton Park in Loganville), Conyers is hoping to ride its red-hot offense to a second consecutive state crown.
Post 77 defeated Blairsville Post 121 22-10 in the first round, then cruised to a 19-2 victory over host Loganville in the semi finals. Monday, Post 77 outlasted Douglasville 16-10. Coach Eddie Bagwell has been impressed with the production up and down the lineup.
"We know probably pitching and defensively we may be a step below what we were last year, but we stepped it up offensively," Bagwell said. "We've come alive, swinging the bats extremely well. From top to bottom, I like the production we're getting."
In the middle of the offensive fireworks is catcher/first baseman Kevin Dawkins. The first-year legion player and rising senior at Rockdale has been fantastic through the tournament's first three games, hitting .563 (9-for-16) with two home runs, one a third-inning grand slam against Loganville, and 16 RBIs.
"Kevin has come up real big, he (has) stepped up to the moment," Bagwell said. "He hits the ball so hard he really has the potential to make something big happen. I think Kevin's doing extremely well."
It has helped Dawkins, the team's No. 5 hitter, that the four batters in front of him have reached base as often as they have. Lead-off hitter Beau Thomas has reached in half of his plate appearances, Josh Bailey in eight of 10, Cameron Gibson in 13 of 17 and cleanup hitter Travis Tarleton in 7 of 16.
"The good thing ... for Kevin right now, the guys in front of him are getting on base a lot," said Bagwell. "Give (Dawkins) credit, he's taken advantage of what's been provided to him. He's come up big. Real, real happy for him the way he's swung the bats in this tournament and probably three or four weeks."
Bonilla continues strong summer
Middle infielder Levi Bonilla has continued his solid play in the middle of the Conyers infield. Inserted into the starting lineup June 24 against Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Post 34, Bonilla hasn't left, and over the last month has given Post 77 a dependable glove at second base and shortstop, along with a potent bat in the No. 9 spot in the order. Bonilla, a rising senior at Salem, is 6-for-14 (.429) in the state tournament.
"I like the production we're getting at the bottom of the order," Bagwell said. "It gives us more opportunities to score with Nick (Woodward) and Levi getting on in the eight and nine hole."
Bailey to miss state title game
When Conyers takes the field in today's championship game, it will be without right fielder and No. 2 hitter Josh Bailey. The Piedmont College commitment and former Salem standout was ejected from Monday's winners bracket final against Douglasville in the middle of his first-inning at bat for arguing balls and strikes, though the ejection didn't appear to be justified.
Bailey was 7-for-9 (.777) with eight runs scored in two tournament games before the ejection. If Conyers is beaten in the first game, Bailey would be available for a deciding Game 2.
Pitching staff helped by off day
A rainstorm hit the Loganville area almost immediately after the final out of Conyers' win over Douglasville and forced the cancellation of the two losers' bracket games. Those games were moved to Tuesday, which also pushed the title game up a day.
It was a much-needed day off for Post 77, especially its pitching staff. Right-hander Kelvan Diaz, who was the winning pitcher in a five-inning stint against Loganville Sunday, will be available today and could get the start in the championship game. Brandon Thomas and Beau Thomas, the starter and closer against Douglasville, respectively, could also be available for an inning or two.
The rest of the staff, including southpaw Ross Roberts (1/3 of an inning against Douglasville), right-hander Aaron Barfield (four innings of four-run ball against Blairsville) and short relievers Ryan Conner (three perfect innings in the state tournament), Chase Ware (one earned run in one inning of work) and Travis Tarleton and Taylor Jackson, who haven't yet pitched in the state tournament, are all available for relief work.
Bagwell and his coaching staff -- pitching coach Jody Gilbert and Scott Tarleton -- could also approach the title game with a by-committee approach.
"We feel like we got Kelvan available for a couple innings, with the extra day, maybe Brandon Thomas for an inning. We feel like we have Ross Roberts and Beau Thomas available," Bagwell said Monday, before leaving it open for just about anyone to pitch. "I won't be surprised if we pitch by committee in that championship game."