By: R. Alan Richardson, Sports Editor
Fall sports are right around the corner and the Morgan County Lady Diamond Dogs will be the first team to officially open their 2015 season on August 11th at Hart County at 5:55. Coach Doug Connelly’s softball team will have their last scrimmage this week with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the christening of the new softball complex before the game. There will also be an alumni game at Bill Wood Park this Friday at 7 p.m.
“We are really looking forward to getting on the new field. We’ve had great support out at Bill Wood Park, but it’s somewhat out of the way and you kind of forget you’re playing for your school. The new field is over there next to the school where all our other teams play and the girls are really excited to make the move. We’re hoping it will increase fan support especially for our students.” said Connelly. A year ago the Lady Dogs had a superb season going 25-10, winning the 8-AAA regular season championship going 10-2, and advancing to the sweet 16 for the second straight year. Coach Connelly commented on the season, “I feel good about the strides we’ve made in the past two years. We ran into a talented Central Carrolton team at state and probably got beat by a better team, but the girls fought hard and played well.”
According to Connelly, the 2015 team is headed in the right direction. “This is not an arrogant thing, but the girls believe they can and will win. It sets the tone when you expect to win. The expectations are there and they know that we can achieve great things if we put in the work and effort without getting complacent,” Connelly observed. The team has some big shoes to fill with graduation losses of third baseman Aubrey Cox and pitcher Hayden Massey. However, players have stepped up. The Coach told us, “We’ve had a couple of freshmen who are ready to play at the varsity level. Some of our role players from last year are ready to fill in some gaps and the return of Elizabeth Couch gives us a huge lift. She was injured in a bad car accident last year and missed the entire season.” Couch had never played third base in her entire playing career, but Connelly experimented in an effort to replace Cox and says she’s doing a fantastic job at her new position. “In fast pitch you have to have a third baseman that can play in close, field bunts, and has quick reactions. She brings all those things to the table,” he told us.
When asked who the frontrunners in the region were Connelly said, “Our team has every opportunity to repeat and win a region championship if we work hard and stay focused on the end goal. This is going to be a very competitive region with seven teams that can compete so you can’t take anyone lightly. It’s no cake walk by any means.” Connelly was quick to praise his coaching staff, “I’m blessed to have our head baseball coach, Merritt Ainslie and Billy Dooley on my staff. Coach Dooley has been a head softball coach at North Oconee and Collins Hill where he won a couple of state championships. I tell them what I’m looking for, say do what you see fit, and they get it done. I don’t even have to worry about it. You have no idea how much easier that makes my job.”