Diamond Lady Dogs piling up awards

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By R. Alan Richardson sports editor

From the Morgan County Lady Dogs Facebook page and Head Coach Doug Connelly: “Alishia Frierson was selected by the AAA coaches as the GACA (Georgia Athletic Coaches Association) AAA player-of-the year as well as the Georgia Dugout Club’s player-of-the-year for 2015. These types of awards are usually predestined for a player from the state champion. For a player from the runner-up team to win this award speaks volumes about the respect the AAA coaches had for Alishia’s performance on the field and her value to the Morgan County team in 2015. Sarah Couch bettered her 2014 second team All-State recognition by moving up to the 2015 GACA AAA All-State first team. Sarah finished the season with a .392 batting average and an almost .500 on-base percentage. During a season in which she made the move to become a lefty slapper, her offensive statistics, combined with stellar play in center field, earned her this outstanding achievement.

In her first full season pitching at the varsity level, Ansley Dean posted a 15-3 record in the circle and finished the season with a minuscule 1.46 ERA. Saving perhaps her best performances for the most important part of the season, Ansley posted a 5-1 postseason record with two shutouts and pitched back-to-back games in the state championship battles with Calhoun. For her outstanding work, Ansley was named to the GACA AAA All-State second team.

One of the few freshmen to receive All-State recognition in any classification, Lady Dog freshman Alissa Webb was tabbed to the GACA All-State second team. Alissa finished the year with a .413 batting average and was 18/19 in stolen bases while playing great defense at the shortstop and outfield positions. Like Ansley, Alissa put on a show in the state tournament and caught the attention of opposing coaching staffs. Due to a miscommunication, one of our assistant coaches, Merritt Ainslie, was not informed until this past week of his being honored as AAA Co-Assistant Coach-of-the-Year. Coach Ainslie and Coach Billy Dooley share this honor together for the 2015 season. I couldn’t think of a finer pair of men to coach alongside, as each provides outstanding instruction to our players. Most importantly, Coach Ainslie and Coach Dooley care about the young people under their direction and are exceptional leaders.

As always, none of these recognitions would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all the talented girls in the Lady Dog softball program. Many great players and coaches go entire careers without receiving such accolades. The fact that the players and coaches who received individual honors is a direct reflection of the awesome team of girls that made up the 2015 Morgan County softball team!” Coach Ainslie talked about what the award meant to him, “I can only accept this award on behalf of the team. It’s not an individual award because without the success of the team, girls, and coaches I would never have received it. I just appreciate Doug allowing me to be a part of the program and coach these great girls.” Coach Dooley followed this up with, “I’ve been very fortunate in my softball coaching career (he won two state championships at Collins Hill and has garnered a number of region and state coaching awards over the years), but this award means more to me than anything I’ve ever received. For Doug to nominate me, as very close friends and former competitors, is very special.”

The four Lady Dog players chimed in with senior and North Georgia signee Frierson saying, “I’ve worked very, very hard since I was 10 and everything finally paid off. I felt like this team was closer than any team ever. Everybody had a role and they filled that role when they were called on. The coaches pushed us hard at practice because they knew how talented we were and how far we could go.” Junior Dean, who was a gem in the circle and on the corners said, “It was an honor to get the awards after so many countless hours of hard work and lessons that have paid off. My team is definitely part of this award as they are a family outside of my own. I’d like to thank my teammates and coaches for all their hard work.”

Dynamic centerfielder and junior Couch, who has been a three-year starter for the team, is also a major cog on the number one girls’ basketball ranked squad said, “It’s great. I’ve been playing softball since I was eight, but everyone has to play well to make a team successful. It’s all about trying to play your best and I feel like I did that to help our team finish second in the state. We were all on the same page to get better and win as a team rather than worrying about individual goals.” Freshman shortstop and outfielder Alissa Webb added, “I was honored to be named first team region and second team all-state at my age. The individual awards are great but it’s the team aspect that is so much more important to me. It’s also great to represent the team I’m on. I love my teammates and have great coaches.”

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