By R. Alan Richardson
Coach Merritt Ainslie enters his second year as the head coach of the Morgan County baseball program and has liked what he’s seen from his club over the summer. “We finished up last week in our league with nine wins, four losses, and one tie, and did well in the tournament getting beat in the semi-finals.”
The coach told us that he had 17-18 players on his varsity roster, but was usually missing 4-5 players due to summer activities. “There’s vacation going on, travel ball, and other camps like football that pull these guys in a lot of different directions. We pretty much know what our veterans are capable of so it does give us a chance to evaluate some of our younger talent and find out what second or third positions they can play to create depth for us next year and beyond. We also try to see if there are any surprises we may not be aware of. There’s definitely some undeveloped raw talent in the ninth through twelfth grade, but the talent is there.”
Some of the players he mentioned were junior middle infielder, Hunter Christian, sophomore third baseman and pitcher, Hunter Lane, junior pitcher and outfielder, Ethan Phelps, and others. “Christian has impressed us with his overall work ethic and the way he approaches the game. He’s competitive and wants to win. Lane has that same bulldog attitude with a fiercely competitive nature and simply refuses to lose. Phelps will definitely help us on the mound. He’s a guy that wants the ball and can sling it in the low 80’s.
Next up for the Dogs will be fall workouts for those not participating in football and gearing up in January for the spring season. Many of the players are still involved in travel ball through July and private hitting/pitching lessons. Morgan will enter into the season in 8-AAA but the complexion of the region has dramatically changed. Gone are powerhouses Jefferson and Oconee County, but the addition of Franklin County will certainly challenge the Dogs in 2017. Monroe Area joins the mix along with rivals Hart County, Jackson County, and East Jackson. Ainslie observed, “We are looking forward to a competitive season in the spring.”