SOFTBALL SENIORS SHINE

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By R. Alan Richardson

sports editor

The Morgan County Lady Dogs varsity softball team closed out the regular season in style on Tuesday with a 12-0 victory over the visiting Hart County Bulldogs.  The seven Lady Dog softball seniors, who picked up win number 99 for their high school careers, led the way in the team’s near flawless performance.

Hart County, who entered the game red hot, saw their one and only scoring opportunity squashed in the first inning by senior pitcher Ansley Dean and the Morgan defense.  Morgan County quickly jumped on top in the home half of the first when Sarah Couch led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a base hit by fellow senior Alisha Ellis.

The two teams went scoreless in the second, which proved to be the calm before Morgan’s offensive storm.  In the third inning, Sarah Couch was again the catalyst for the Lady Dog offense.  The senior center fielder got things going by reaching base on an error and advancing to second on an errant Hart County throw. After moving to third on an infield hit by Alissa Webb, Couch was able to score on a well-executed first and third offensive play.  Later in the inning, with two outs and runners on second and third, Ansley Dean helped her own cause by delivering a two run single that extended Morgan’s lead to 4-0.

The offensive onslaught continued in Morgan’s half of the fourth inning when the Lady Dogs picked up eight runs to bring the final score to 12-0 per GHSA run-rule.  The Lady Dogs executed several small ball tactics including a slash hit single by senior Bryanna Mims.  Alisha Ellis and senior third baseman Elizabeth Couch picked up RBIs in the inning.  Two more runs scored in an unlikely manner when Ansley Dean executed a push bunt past the Hart County infield.  Finally, the game ended with a walk off single by senior catcher Leah Malcom that drove in the 11th and 12th runs.

Dean was sharp in the circle for the Lady Dogs only giving up two hits.  The Morgan County defense made all of the plays behind their pitcher in route to the four inning shutout.

The Lady Dogs closed out the regular season with an 18-7 overall mark and 9-1 record in region 8-AAA play.  Morgan County has earned the right to host the final four, double-elimination portion of the region tournament scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 4.  Morgan County enters the tournament as the number one seed and will play a to be determined region opponent on Tuesday at 12:00.  For a complete tournament bracket, log onto www.mocoathletics.com/softball.

Here’s what Coach McBay had to say about these seven very special seniors.

“Girls, before four months ago, I only knew about each of you as opponents and through stories that Coach Connelly would share. Now, four months later all seven of you have a very special place in my heart. Thank you all for being not only such great softball players, but for being even better people. You are all role models for younger girls which includes my very own daughters – Brynlee and Ellison. Thank you for making the softball field a place they look forward to coming to. When we sat down together at the Chop House in May, I underestimated the impact you would have on me and my family.

Sarah, you are the best centerfielder I have ever coached. The jumps you get off the bat are the best I’ve ever seen. Continue to lead by example in every area of your life. You have your mother’s work ethic which has you set up for a very successful life. Your well-roundedness will always help you find your place in the world. Thank you for making Ellison feel so special on Camper Appreciation night. Let’s go finish what we have started!

Leah, I think i surprised you on Day 1 when I knew what “jugging” was. You are always a delight to be around (unless it’s before 9:00 a.m.). The most striking thing about you is your balance of beauty and brawn. You are what I like to call “country strong” – that’s both physically and mentally. Thank you for always giving your best at times even pushing through injuries that would have most players shut down for weeks. You are an amazing player and person that makes everyone feel stronger and better when they are around you. My only regret – and my daughters agree – is that only get to coach you one year. Push yourself & let’s make this next month one they talk about for years to come.

Sydney, you have amazed me every single day. Every challenge I have thrown your way – you have accepted and dominated. Your hard work this season has not gone unnoticed. Of all the girls that I have ever coached, you have made the greatest strides in the shortest amount of time. Thank you for being so coachable and for doing everything with a smile on your face. Never forgot how hard you have worked this year and how far you’ve come. Life at times will be harder than any ballgame you have ever played in, but you have exactly what it takes to always come out on top. You are a winner and I am so honored to be your coach!

Alisha, you are one of the smoothest players when times get tough. It’s almost like when the pressure is on, your skin gets thicker. Always keep that cool under pressure side of you. It will carry you this life long after your softball career is over (and your future husband will appreciate it). I’m not gonna lie, there were times in practice this year when you drove me insane, but I never had any question what i would get out of you on game day. You are as competitive as I am and truly have all the instincts that cannot be taught. Thank you for believing in me. Now let’s go check off ALL of those goals we set together.

Bryanna, you have love for people, especially those that are close to you that is second to no one. Thank you for loving and encouraging your teammates. I am especially proud of the way you have done whatever I asked of you this season. You use all of your gifts (especially your speed and bunting) to make us a better team. Thank you for the relationship you have with my daughters. They really look up to you. My prayer for you is that you will always find your strength, your comfort, and your identity in God. Just like Jeremiah 29:11 says, He has big plans for you. Over the next month, let’s keep the “one more” mindset as we get better everyday.

Ansley, congratulations on a great season so far. You have grown a lot as a player and a person this season – always learning from the valleys and staying humble and driven on the peaks. I have no doubt you will do great at Chattanooga State and I am excited to see where you go beyond there. Thank you for always speaking your mind – you and I both have that characteristic so it works well. You are a great person and are actually stronger than you give yourself credit for. At the end of each season in each classification in softball, there is usually one or two pitchers that surprise coaches with their performance. This is your year. We all believe in you and we know that you have what it takes to finish the task at hand. Stay in the moment and be unwavering as you pitch with the love of the game and the love for your teammates in your heart.

Liz, I have thoroughly enjoyed growing closer to you this season. You play the game the way I did (although I was never fast like you). Your instincts for the game are most impressive. Thank you for paying attention to the details and for challenging me to be better every single day. You thirst for success in and out of the classroom is admirable. I have no doubt that you will make a lot more money than me one day doing something great. Thank you for being a listening ear in fourth period this year. I never could have imagined that a few years ago when I prayed daily for you and Sarah and your mom that I would one day be your coach. I really had no clue the impact you would and do have on me as a person. This is our one and only ride – let’s make it one for a lifetime!

Girls, thank you for what you have meant to this school, to your parents, to this program, to your teammates, and most of all to this coach! I challenged you with a saying just last week “Be phenomenal or be forgotten”, but the truth is you seven could never be forgotten. “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a CLOUD OF WITNESSES let us throw off everything that hinders…  and run with perseverance the race marked out for us!!” ONE MORE! “

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