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By R. Alan Richardson

sports editor

Morgan County’s Diamond Dogs got two big region wins this week pushing their region record to 3-6.  They are still right in the middle of the region playoff battle with nine region games still remaining on the schedule.

After a rainout of the scheduled doubleheader with the Eagles on Friday, the teams agreed to play the two games on Saturday beginning at 12:00.  Morgan split these two with East Jackson losing the first game 17-15 in a slugfest and rebounding with a 10-1 win in the second contest.

East Jackson came out of the gates on fire with the bats scoring four runs in the top of the first on four consecutive doubles.  The 20+ mph wind gusts gave both teams fits in the outfield all day, but it was particularly obvious in the first inning as all of the Eagles’ doubles were tailing left to right into right field and difficult to judge.

The Dogs fought back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning off only one hit.  Dalton Cole and Max Wadsworth both scored on wild pitches.  Leadoff batter Cole reached on a walk and Wadsworth singled before scoring the two runs to put the Bulldogs back in business.

East Jackson got three runs in the second on a walk, double, and three singles to go up 7-2.  Morgan was unable to score in the bottom of the inning and the Eagles continued to come up with big hits and score four more runs.  Morgan was down 11-2 going into the fourth and things were not looking good for the home team.

Reliever Jaron Ferguson shut down East Jackson in the fourth with help on a tremendous double play turned by Hunter Christian and Austin Rapier to Grant Cofer at first.  After that the Morgan County bats woke up scoring four runs in the fourth and adding three more in the fifth to cut into a big Eagle lead.  In the fourth Morgan picked up those four runs on only two hits, but was aided by wild pitches, passed balls, and two errors by the Eagles.  East Jackson added an insurance run in the fifth to make it 12-6.

The fifth inning brought the fans to their feet.  Rapier doubled to start the inning followed by Mclane Zant’s walk and an opposite field homerun to right by centerfielder Sam Couch for three RBI’s.  At that point the game was on and the Dogs were right back in the game down three 12-9.

The Dogs got two more in the sixth when Lane scored on an error after he singled and Austin Hale beat out an infield hit.  He scored on another single by Couch who went 3-4 in the game and drew a walk.  The score was 12-11 going into the seventh and anybody’s game.

However, East Jackson scored five in the top half of the final inning to take a 17-11 edge, and it seemed like the Dogs were done.

With two outs in the last chance at-bat for Morgan, they mounted a serious comeback sending ten batters to the plate.  A walk was followed by five consecutive singles to left field that had the Eagles reeling.  The Dogs pulled to within two at 17-15 before East Jackson could put out the fire and take the win.

In the second game of the afternoon, East Jackson had no answer for Justin Miner on the mound.  His stats on the mound were impressive giving up only seven hits in a complete game performance.  He also struck out five and didn’t walk a batter until the fourth inning (two walks total).  The lone run for the Eagles came in the first inning when Morgan committed an error and a double to left put runners in scoring position.  A wild pitch allowed the runner to score.

The Dogs went three up and three down in the first, but went off in the second for six runs.  MOCO batted around with the first five batters reaching safely to start the rally.  Cofer had two singles in the inning, Maclane Zane had a single, and Hale along with Miner doubled to the fence in a nice display of offense.  The final out of the inning was a bang-bang play at the plate on a steal by Christian that was questionable at best.

The Dogs got another run in the fourth with Hale scoring again when Zant doubled to the left field gap.  The RBI gave Morgan a 7-1 lead.  The Dogs continued their onslaught in the fourth.  Lane drew a two-out walk, moved to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Cofer.  It was another two-out rally in the fifth inning that finalized the 10-1 win.  Singles by Miner, Couch, Cole, and Christian scored Miner and Couch ended the region win for the Dogs.

Cofer was outstanding at the plate going 4-4, Zant was 2-3, and Miner topped off his work on the mound going 2-2.

Earlier in the week Morgan defeated East Jackson in the first game of the series 13-3.  Wadsworth had another monster game at the plate with six RBI’s and two homeruns, (a grand slam and solo).  Lane got the start and went six innings striking out five.  Couch mopped things up in the seventh in relief.

Coach Merritt Ainslie commented on the week’s games, “We talk to the guys about winning each series and we accomplished that this week.  I’m proud that we were able to do that.  It’s how the state playoffs are set up and usually the best team moves on in a 2-3 series.”  The Dogs are now 7-10 on the season and 3-6 in 8-AAA play.  Elbert County is leading the region with only one loss on their record.

Merritt said, “There’s still a lot of baseball to be played for all the teams to determine the one through four seeding into the state tournament.  It hasn’t been decided yet, but we need to win at least two of these last three series to stay in the hunt.”

The Dogs scored 38 runs against the Eagles this week.  Merritt talked about that saying, “I would have thought that scoring that many runs we would have swept the series, but they just out hit us in the second game.  We had one bad defensive inning in the seventh allowing them to score five runs on four errors.  Before that the momentum was on our side.  It’s not easy to bounce back after a tough loss like that, but I thought we showed some mental toughness winning the last game of the series 10-1.  Justin had a good outing for us on the mound.  Some guys got some opportunities and made the most of it so I’m proud of them.  If we handle our business, we should be OK in the region playoff race.”

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