By R. Alan Richardson
Morgan County went into the last week of the baseball season with a glimmer of hope to still make the state playoffs. They would have to defeat Jackson County three straight in the last three-game region series of the year. The Dogs smoked the Panthers in the first game on Tuesday at home 6-2 to keep those hopes alive. Morgan went on to defeat Jackson County again on Friday in the first game of a doubleheader 8-6 on the road. Unfortunately, the Dogs came up short in the second game losing 6-1 ending their season in a heartbreaking manner.
First-year head coach Merritt Ainslie summarized the season like this, “We came up one game short to make the playoffs. This region continues to play very competitive baseball year end and year out and this year was no different. Just to let you know how close the teams were top to bottom, the first place team three weeks ago finished in sixth place over the course of the final three weeks. Our top four teams are going into the playoffs with good momentum and I expect them to do really well and compete deep into the state tournament.”
When asked how he would evaluate his first season Ainslie commented, “Overall I will evaluate this season on a few key areas. Number one, and most importantly, from an on the field standpoint that begins with how close we got to our potential as individuals and as a team throughout the season, even the coaches. The coaches and I talked at length after our last game about how far we’ve come from day one to our final out this year. A few plays here and there and we are still playing baseball this week. However, the boys fought hard until the last out and had the desire to compete and be there in the end. I’m proud of them for that. We grew throughout the season and gained consistency along the way which is something we are looking for. Players that are consistent are predictable and something we value as coaches. I expect us to consistently battle and compete for the top spot in the region year in and year out moving forward.”
Ainslie wanted to give a shout out to his seniors saying, “I’m proud of our five seniors for giving the program their time and effort for the last four years. I’ve only known them for two of their four years, but in my final comments to them after our last game I mentioned that it’s hard to stick with something for four years as a teenager with so many influences competing for their time. They chose baseball over other things because they love the game and enjoy each other. I hope they look back on their time in the program and have fond memories. These five were pretty tight knit and would routinely be in the parking lot talking and sitting on a tailgate when I left the ball field just hanging out. The friendships and memories are what they’ll remember most. I hope they choose to come back and give their support to the program for years to come.”