By: Jamison Hooks
The Lady Dogs have cinched a 1st place finish in region 8-AAA for the regular season and the right to host the Final Four of the region tournament on Tuesday, October 7th and Thursday, October 9th. The Morgan County High School softball team is coming off of a challenging and successful week of games as their regular season schedule winds down. Their week was marked by three wins in three competitive contests, two of which were against Region 8 – AAA rivals. In the first match up, the visiting Morgan County Bulldogs defeated regional foe, Jefferson, by a score of 6-4 in a game marked by timely hitting and defense. The Lady Bulldogs got off to a hot start, tallying two runs in the first inning. Aubree Cox doubled down to left field line to get Morgan County rolling with one out. Alisha Ellis safely reached first on an error, which allowed Cox to score. Ellis put more pressure on the Lady Dragons defense when she stole second and then scored when Laney Crawford reached base on yet another error. Jefferson refused to let Morgan County get comfortable by answering with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning. Refusing to let Jefferson get any momentum, Morgan County picked up in the second inning where they left off in the first. Leah Malcom led off the inning by reaching base after being hit by a pitch. Kaylee Darsey was brought in to pinch run and capitalized on the opportunity by stealing second and then scoring when the Dragon’s couldn’t handle a shot off of the bat of Bryanna Mims. Hannah Carver then drew a walk to push Mims down to second. Mims and Carver then executed a double steal before Alishia Frierson brought both runners home with a double to the right center gap. The three Lady Dogs runs brought the score to 5-2 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs. The next few innings became Pitcher Alishia Frierson’s show as she held the Dragons scoreless in the home half of the 2nd and 3rd innings. Frierson continued to exert her will on Jefferson in the 4th inning by blasting a moon shot over the left field fence which extending Morgan County’s lead to 6-2. Refusing to throw in the towel, Jefferson answer with two runs in the home half of the 4th to cut the lead to 6-4. Hayden Massey was called on to relieve Frierson in the circle, and was money for the Lady Dogs. She allowed just two hits in three innings of work and stifled a determined Jefferson attack. Her three innings of relief pitching yielded only two hits and no runs and earned Massey the win Lady Dogs. Frierson worked four innings, allowing 3 earned runs. At the plate, Frierson and Aubree Cox led the way with 2-3 performances. Frierson added three RBIs as well. After the game, Coach Connelly commented on the team’s performance. “We continue to play good defense and get efficient pitching. Frierson battled on the mound for us for the first four innings, and Hayden kept them off balance and really slowed their attack. To shut them down after the start they had offensively says it all about the night she had. Sarah Couch’s play in center field should also be noted. She made several game changing plays. She often makes things look really easy, but in fact there are not many players who could do what she does. Sarah makes “wow” plays look easy. In their second Region 8-AAA game of the week the Morgan County High School softball team Found themselves in another dog fight, this time against the Warriors from rival Oconee County. Oconee County started off fast jumping out to a commanding 3-0 lead through 3 ½ innings of play. Morgan County clawed their way back into the game in the bottom of the 4th, striking for two runs to slash the deficit to 3-2. Aubree Cox jump started the got the Lady Dogs with a leadoff single. Alisha Ellis followed up with a single of her own. Cox and Ellis would then pull off a double steal allowing Cox to score from third on a subsequent wild pitch. Ellis, then scored on a single off the bat of Avery Kirby. Alishia Frierson came in to relieve starting pitcher Hayden Massey in the top of the 5th. She was able to sit the Warriors down in order and shift momentum towards the Dogs. That momentum carried over into an offensive outburst in the Lady Dogs half of the 5th. Ashley Backus cranked up the Dogs offensive machine by reaching first on an error to start the inning. Hannah Carver shifted into low gear with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to move Backus to second. Frierson and Cox then drew back to back walks to load the bases. Alisha Ellis and Sarah Couch slammed the offense into high gear with consecutive hits, each driving home two Lady Dogs. Leah Malcom and Ashley Backus each added RBI singles to close out the action packed six run 5th inning bringing the score to 8-3 in favor Morgan County. As expected, Oconee County refused to give up. The Lady Warriors added three runs in their final at bat and had the tying run on base when the last out was recorded. The game ended with Morgan County claiming a hard fought and satisfying 8-6 victory. Alisha Ellis led the Lady Dogs offensively with a 3-4 performance and 2 RBIs. This win clinched a 1st place finish in region 8-AAA for the regular season and the right to host the Final Four of the region tournament on Tuesday, October 7th and Thursday, October 9th. By virtue of finishing first, the Lady Dogs also punched a ticket to the state playoffs. “I’m so proud of these girls. They have continued to get better as the season has gone along, which is a sign of a good team. They never give up and they play hard for seven innings. Every girl on the roster has contributed significantly to this accomplishment. You can look back and highlight specific points at which each member has helped us win a game that enabled us to reach this achievement.” The Lady Dogs closed out the week at home on Friday the 26th by stepping outside of region play for a stiff test from nearby rival Eastside High School. Morgan County trailed most of the game but tied it in the 7th inning and won in extra innings by the score of 5-4. Eastside served notice that the Lady Dogs were in for a test when third baseman Katie Ray whacked a two run homer over the center field fence. In the bottom of the first, Morgan County responded with some small ball to cut the lead in half. Aubree Cox singled and advanced to second on a ground ball. She later scored when Sarah Couch singled to left field. After a tough first inning, Hayden Massey found her comfort zone in the circle, and settled in to hold the Eagles scoreless in each of the next three innings. Morgan County seized the lead in their half of the 4th. Laney Crawford drew a one out walk. Bryanna Mims, pinch running for Crawford, advanced to third after the Eastside defense mishandled an infield ground ball hit by Elizabeth Couch. Kaylee Darsey, running for Couch, stole second while Mims rushed home on the play. Darsey then scored when Ashley Backus grounded out. The inning ended with a 3-2 score in favor of the Lady Dogs. Unfortunately, that lead was short lived, as Eastside scored twice in the top of the fifth. Before the Eagles could extend their new lead, Alishia Frierson was brought in to relieve starter Hayden Massey. Frierson executed her job to perfection by shutting Eastside down and stranding an Eagle runner at 3rd base. Frierson was on fire in the 6th and 7th innings as well, mowing down Eagle hitters, refusing to yield any more runs. As if her performance in the circle wasn’t enough, with one out in the bottom of the 7 inning, Frierson hit a tsunami over the left center field fence to knot the game at 4 all. Her solo home run would be the only Lady Dog run in the 7th, forcing the game into extra innings. In the top of the 8th, Eastside managed to load the bases with one out. Frierson then induced a fly out to right field. After recording the out, Maddie Kinnett immediately fired the ball to home plate preventing the runner from tagging up and scoring. The Morgan County dugout breathed a sigh of relief when the next Eagle batter popped out to the infield and the Lady Dogs got out of the 8th unscathed. By virtue of the international tiebreaker rule, Alisha Ellis started the Morgan half of the 8th inning on second base. Sarah Couch then executed a nice sacrifice bunt which moved Ellis to third. Laney Crawford then slammed the door on Eastside when she hit a chopper on the ground to shortstop, which allowed Ellis to cross the plate easily for the game winning run. After the game an excited Coach Connelly said “This was a big win as far as experience is concerned. We got to play an international tiebreaker inning against a great opponent, which is something you cannot simulate in practice. This type of experience should be beneficial as we head into the post season, where every game will likely come down to the end.” Coach Connelly is exceptionally impressed with his team and their ability to compliment one another. “I really like the way Hayden and Alishia compliment each other in the circle. They have different styles but are both effective. When they combine in games, they make it very difficult for hitters get their timing. I also want to highlight our defense, which has continually improved over the past month. Also, Leah Malcom’s play behind the plate should be noted. She works very well with our pitching staff and has limited the hidden extra bases opponents get via passed balls,” said Connelly. The Lady Dogs record as of September 29th is an impressive 22 wins and only 5 losses. In Region 8-AAA play the Dogs have a stellar 10 – 1 record. The Lady Dogs wrap up the regular season on October 1st at Elbert County. After that Morgan County will host the “final four” portion of the region 8-AAA tournament on Tuesday, October 7th. The tournament will continue and finish on Thursday, October 9th. The Lady Dogs have already earned the right to play in the 1st round of the state playoffs to be held on Wednesday, October 15th and Thursday, October 16th. The Lady Dogs seeding will be based on the results of the region tournament.