SHARPSBURG - East Coweta provided plenty of reasons why it was ranked No. 1 heading into the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. The Region 3-AAAAAA champions had 27 hits in just seven offensive innings and rolled past Rockdale, 13-0 and 16-0 in a first round series in Sharpsburg.
East Coweta (26-2) returned to the second round for the eighth consecutive season where it will host Region 4 runner-up Marietta next week. Rockdale, the No.4 seed appearing in the state tournament for the first time since 2006, when current Georgia Tech senior Buck Farmer was a freshman member of the Bulldogs’ pitching staff, finished 14-13.
East Coweta, playing as the road team in game two, jumped all over Phillip Anschutz with a four-run first inning, highlighted by three consecutive run-scoring doubles from Bryce Gemmel, Cole Amtmann and Jon Banks. It got worse in a hurry as Anschutz only got one out in the second, and two dropped pop ups aided in a six-run frame that chased the right-hander after Austin Jones’ two-out double.
“They swing the sticks really well. It’s probably one of the best hitting teams we’ve seen,” said Rockdale coach Justin Arrington.
Rockdale was held hitless until Yancey Freeny led off the third and final inning with an infield single and stole second. That was the first and only time during the doubleheader Rockdale got a base-runner to second base.
Austin Bellamy hit a batter, but was nearly unhittable otherwise as the right-hander struck out five to get the win. Anschutz allowed 10 runs (six earned) in 1 2/3 innings pitched and Tyler Page surrendered five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen.
“(East Coweta) can hit a fastball,” said Arrington.
The host Indians jumped out early in the opener and cruised to a 13-0 victory in a mercy rule-shortened five innings.
Facing Rockdale starter Kaleb Nieddu, East Coweta sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and got run-scoring hits from Amtmann (RBI-double) and Matthew Meyer (two-run double), and Nieddu’s wild pitch and an RBI-ground out helped the Coweta County school go up 5-0.
Nieddu didn’t retire a batter in the second, allowing three consecutive singles to start the frame, the last of which off the bat of Banks made it 6-0 and chased Nieddu from the game.
Banks would later score on a wild pitch and Geremy Walton’s opposite single and a sacrifice fly from Travis Williams pushed the East Coweta lead to 9-0.
Meanwhile, starter Zack McCurry was excellent in helping the Indians take a 1-0 series lead. McCurry, a right-hander with a 3/4 delivery, gave up a bloop single to Austin Jewell to start the game, then retired in order the final 11 batters he faced. Rockdale finally got its second, and last, base-runner of the game when Page drew a lead-off walk facing reliever Jacob Mann in the fifth.
Rockdale still hasn’t won a state playoff series since the 1998 team defeated Cartersville and Cook on their way to the state semi finals. Though the Bulldogs went quietly Friday, their first regular season in Class AAAAAA ended with a five-game winning streak and a postseason berth.
“The kids worked hard (and) it started paying off. Made state,” said Arrington.