By R. Alan Richardson
If the Morgan County Diamond Dog baseball team can continue their winning ways and take the number one seed into the upcoming state baseball playoffs, it will be only the sixth time in the past 30 years that they can claim to be Region Champions. Several things still need to happen, but for the most part, the Dogs can write their own script this week as they play the last series of the season against East Jackson. Morgan would love to get the sweep, but depending on the other factors involved, it might only take one win to seal the deal. Get out and support our boys as they hope to make history this week.
This past week, the Dogs took a 2-1 series win over a talented Hart County team. In the first game of the three-game series, the Dogs fought the Hart County Bulldogs for five innings to a 1-1 tie. Morgan exploded in the bottom of the sixth for five runs and held on in the seventh to take a 6-1 win and the series lead.
Starting pitcher, Ethan Stamps, went the distance and got the win. Even though the freshman struggled with his control from the first pitch on, he struck out three, gave up only three hits, and got some great defense behind him that committed no errors. The play of the game came in the top of the sixth when right fielder Jacob Anderson made a nice, running catch in right center. He gathered himself and hosed the runner that had ventured too far off first for the assist. Teams are learning not to run on this bazooka-armed sophomore.
It was a pitcher’s duel for the first three innings until MOCO garnered a run in the fourth. Morgan scored after Stamps doubled, but was thrown out trying to take third. Dakota Young and Anderson were both hit by pitches and Grant Cofer reached base on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Hunter Christian walked to move the runner across home. Hart then went home for the force-out and a fly ball shut down a golden opportunity for the Dogs to get more runs on the board.
Hart bounced back to tie things up one inning later. After a hit batsman reached first, the visiting Dogs got a double and a sac fly to score the run.
Morgan went on a tear in the sixth with the first five runners reaching base and scoring. Cofer doubled and was followed by what looked like a sure dinger off the bat of Anderson. It hit the yellow line at the top of the fence to drive in Cofer from second. Christian reached on a bunt single, Trey Patterson was hit by a pitch and Dalton Cole delivered the big blow of the inning with a bases loaded single. Jaron Ferguson got an RBI on a fielder’s choice and Hunter Lane drove in the final run with a single before the inning halted on a double play. Stamps finished off Hart in their last at-bat for the 6-1 final.
Morgan’s bats were on fire in the second game of the series scoring 13 runs in a run-rule win 13-2 after six innings. Hunter Lane went the distance and now boasts a 4-0 record in region play. Coach Merritt Ainslie said, “He’s just so consistent, throws a lot of strikes and mixes in his curve and off-speed pitches well. You know what you’re going to get from Hunter. He never gives in and believes in our solid defense behind him.” Lane gave up no walks and the defense had only one error. Ainslie added, “Our bats did well with seven hits, but they booted the ball around some. We put lots of pressure on them on the base paths. We stole some bases and had two sac bunts that added to Hart’s miscues.”
Dakota Young was again big behind the plate throwing out two of three base runners. The head coach gave high praise to his catcher with this, “He shuts teams down with his arm. They’ve learned not to try and run on him.”
Lane was also instrumental at the plate going 3-4 with two RBI’s and Dalton Cole had a nice game and series serving up RBI’s in games one and two. Grant Cofer and Jaron Ferguson had three RBI’s apiece in the game that clinched the series
The final game was somewhat of a disappointment as MOCO took the 2-1 loss. One bright spot for the night was Cole throwing a five hitter and giving up only one earned run in what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel. Ainslie commented, “They threw a side arm pitcher at us that we hadn’t seen. He threw three pitches (fastball, curve, change) for strikes that were hard to pick up. There was no difference in his angle of delivery and that made it difficult for us to time him up even though he wasn’t overpowering. The difference was off our one error for their unearned run.”
Cofer got an RBI single in the third to give the Dogs the 1-0 lead, but Morgan missed a golden opportunity in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Dogs failed to score. This left the door open for Hart. In the fifth Hart scored the two runs needed for the win off of two walks, a stolen base, a balk, and an error and got the next six outs.
Morgan is still holding onto first place at the moment and has already cemented at least a second place seeding. This will allow them to host the first round of the State Playoffs April 28 and 29. Morgan is 10-2 followed by Hart at 9-3, Franklin, Jackson, and Monroe Area.