By R. Alan Richardson
Amid one of the most unusual plays you’ll ever see in softball or baseball, the Lady Diamond Dogs almost pulled off a second game win that would have kept them alive to fight another day. In Wednesday’s nightcap of a double header in the two-of-three series against the Sonoraville Phoenix, the game ended 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh when Morgan walked in the winning run. Or so it seemed. Head Coach Jason McBay and assistant Billy Dooley quickly noticed that the batter and runner on first never reached their respective bases. It is in the rulebook that in that situation each runner must touch the next base. When they didn’t the coaches told the players to touch second after the batter who walked was also called out for never reaching first base. This resulted in a double play to end the inning and the winning run was wiped off the board. Morgan was back from the dead. Unfortunately, the Lady Dogs were unable to score in the top of the eighth and Sonoraville won the game in their at-bat with a walk-off double for the final 5-4 win. After winning the first game 10-4, the Lady Phoenix took the series and will advance to Columbus for the Elite Eight to face Worth County in the next round.
The Lady Dogs got off to a great start in the series opener by taking a 2-0 lead into the third inning. Alissa Webb singled from the leadoff spot and Madison Henry drove her in with a double to the fence in left centerfield. Pinch runner Karlie Lane scored on a grounder to first by Mary Trent Chandler to get off to the fast start. Sonoraville got a run in the third with two doubles and a sacrifice bunt in between before starter Katee Finney got out of the jam with two runners stranded.
With MOCO leading 2-1, the Phoenix fifth was a nightmare for the Dogs. After picking off a runner on second on their patented “fake play”, Sonoraville reeled off nine runs while sending 15 batters to the plate and it was 10-2 before Morgan could put out the fire. The Lady Dogs did score two more runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth, but that was as close as they would get. The final was 10-4.
This was the same scenario that Morgan had faced in 2016 when playing this same team in the first round of state play. They lost the first game before sweeping the next two. McBay reminded his team of that after the first game and the girls looked ready to repeat their efforts from a year ago. The second game went down to the wire and then some with Morgan coming up just short.
The Dogs were the visitors in this one and got behind early. The Lady Phoenix got two runs in the first when a walk was followed by a hit batter, two singles, and another walk. Shortstop Webb came on in relief and slammed the door before further damage could be done. She struck out the first batter and then turned a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded. For those of you unfamiliar with softball scorebook language a hot grounder was hit back to Webb (1 is the pitcher) in the circle. She fired the ball to Henry (2 is the catcher) who stepped on home plate for the force out and then zipped a strike to first basemen Sadie Worth (3 is the first baseman) who also stepped on the base. It gave a huge lift to the Morgan bench and fans.
Morgan tied things up 2-2 in the third when Webb ripped a homerun that hit the left field foul pole with Hannah Callaway on base. The heroics continued for Webb on the mound in the third inning when she again pitched out of a bases-loaded jam. Reign Williams gobbled up a grounder at third and forced the runner at home before the next batter hit a comebacker to Webb for the third out.
It was in the top of the sixth that the Lady Dogs took the lead. A leadoff double by Williams, a sac bunt by Zoey Brown, a single by Dakota Cepuran, and two errors by the Phoenix defense accounted for two runs and the 4-2 lead going to the seventh inning. Morgan went three-up-and-three-down in their at bat before the fireworks started. Sonoraville got a homer from their first batter of the inning to put the Phoenix one run closer at 4-3. A bloop single and two walks loaded the bases. Brown made a nice play for the first out before the visitors got a run home to tie things up at 4-4. The ensuing walk with the bases loaded resulted in the double play described earlier that gave the girls new life.
However, it was not to be. Morgan gave up a walk that was followed by a throwing error and the Phoenix ended things with a double to right field for the game winner and the 5-4 defeat. The loss ends a successful campaign for Morgan with a fourth place regular season finish, third place tournament finish, and another trip to the Sweet Sixteen.