Some say practice makes perfect. Others believe that perfect practice makes perfect. Coach Merritt Ainslie made sure his guys were getting in a little perfect practice by inviting a special guest pitcher to toss a little batting practice. This wasn’t your normal BP. Nope, it was going up against a Major League Baseball pitcher by the name of Alan Busenitz of the Minnesota Twins. I’d say that makes for perfect practice. If you can hit him, 8-AAA pitching should be no problem.
Alan Busenitz is no stranger to the area having played his high school days at Athens Christian Academy just up the road. He then starred at Kennesaw State University before making the jump to the minor leagues. He got the call to the ‘Bigs’ in Minnesota last year. The right-hander’s gas has been clocked at 99 mph and, according to MLB.com, his four-seam fastball averaged 93.2 mph. The full-time reliever went 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA striking out 23 in 28 innings pitched. One Morgan County player said, “It’s not just his velocity he throws with, it’s the movement and control he has. It was pretty interesting to watch us trying to hit him. Whiffs and weak grounders and that was about it,” he laughed. That kind of pitching will get you ready, that’s for sure.
The Morgan County baseball squad is gearing up for their third season under Head Coach Merritt Ainslie and returning a majority of their lineup and pitching staff. The reigning Region Champions are looking to defend their trophy by returning some heavy hitters and the two aces of their staff.
Hunter Lane returns as the 8-AAA Region pitcher-of-the-year with a mark of 11-0 on the season and undefeated in region play. He was also named to the All-Region first team along with centerfielder Jaron Ferguson and shortstop Hunter Christian. Ethan Stamps was chosen to the first team as a pitcher and to the second team All-Region. Also, right fielder Jacob Anderson and first baseman Grant Cofer were awarded honorable mention.
Ferguson led the team in hitting at .385 followed by Stamps at .356. Stamps also returns on the mound having gone 7-3 as a freshman. Stamps led the team in RBI’s at 39 with Lane following closely with 25. Having lost only two seniors, this team has a shot at making some serious noise in 8-AAA and at the state level.
The Diamond Dogs will be looking to avenge a first-round State Tournament loss in 2017 against a Calhoun team that came into the series as a #4 seed and ended up in the Final Four. Morgan lost that series two games to one in heartbreaking fashion, but this year’s squad is now a year older and more experienced.
A year ago, in looking back on the season, Ainslie made these remarks, “We’re returning our core group so that should bode well for us. We should be set up pretty good for next year.” Can the Dogs repeat as Region Champs? We hope so. They certainly have a lot of pieces in place.
The Dogs will start season play this week with a scrimmage game at Eastside February 6 at 5:30 followed by an away game with Oconee County on February 12 to start their regular season schedule. That game is slated for a 5:55 start. Morgan starts Region action March 9 against Jackson County.