The Morgan County Bulldogs fell twice this week to North Oconee, once at home 4-2 and once on the road 13-3. In the second game of the week, the Dogs did well against Kumar Rocker, forecasted to be one of the top Major League Baseball draftees.
He could go number one in some prognosticators’ minds as a pitcher, but also totes a mean bat while playing first base on his non-pitching days.
He is the son of former NFL tackle Tracy Rocker.
The first game of the week was one that the Dogs would rather forget as they were charged with six errors and several unearned runs in the 13-3 rout. Coach Merritt Ainslie told us that it was on to round two on Friday that he was concerned about.
With Rocker to start that game, the pre-game dugout was somewhat giddy at the prospects at facing the Titans’ ace.
One player was heard to say, “If he comes inside and brushes you back, just stare him down. If he hits you, you better not rub it.” Ainslie jokingly told his team, “You might better move up in the batter’s box. He’s not that fast.” Rocker’s fastball has been clocked at 103, according to one website.
However, most MLB reports say his top speed is 98, but he throws consistently in the 93-96 range. No matter how you clock it, that’s fast folks. That’s a major league fastball.
Major League scouts with their radar guns surrounded the bullpen as Rocker went through his pregame warmups. They were seen dotted throughout the stands and areas around the fence during the contest.
Dogs’ ace, Hunter Lane, got the nod for the start and pitched well through three innings of work. The Titans got two runs in the first with one being unearned off the big right-hander.
An error and two singles gave North Oconee the early 2-0 lead. Most figured that would be plenty for Rocker, but the Dogs quickly went to work off the 6-5, 250 pounder. Lane helped his cause in the leadoff spot by blistering one in the hole for a single before Ethan Stamps ripped a single down the left field line to score him.
However, Stamps was thrown out at second and the inning ended with a strikeout to make it 2-1. It was the second strikeout of the inning and tenth on the night for the big fella from North Oconee.
He faced the minimum of batters through the next four innings, but left the mound with only a 2-1 lead.
Lane held the opposition to those two runs through the third striking out five and walking one on an intentional walk to Rocker in the third inning with runners in scoring position. In that inning the leadoff batter singled, and advanced to third on consecutive errors by Morgan before Lane struck out the next hitter.
After the intentional walk, North Oconee’s cleanup man hit a grounder to the mound that caught the runner on third in a rundown. He was tagged out, but two runners still remained on the bases in scoring position. Lane stepped up and struck out the final batter of the inning to put out the fire and end the possible rally.
Stamps came on in relief and pitched the remainder of the game working four innings. The Titans got two more insurance runs in their half of the seventh with a single, two walks, and another single.
The damage could have been worse had it not been for an inning-ending double play from Lane (at third) to Arienzo (at second) to Grant (at first) to limit the scoring. It was now 4-1, but the Dogs got one more chance to tie the game.
Jaron Ferguson started the inning from his second slot with a walk. Stamps followed with a walk of his own and the Dogs had something going. A wild pitch allowed the runners to move up before Trey Patterson’s grounder ended in a fielder’s choice that scored Ferguson.
With two outs Hunter Christian was hit by a pitch to bring the winning run to the plate. North Oconee’s reliever served up a breaking ball that sent a weak grounder to third for the final out.
The next week will be a busy one for the Diamond Dogs.
They will host both Mary Persons on Mar. 7 at 5:55 and Jackson County on Mar. 9 at 5:00 in a doubleheader before going on the road to play Athens Christian on the 12th and Jackson County on the 13th.
The first pitch for both of those games is scheduled for 5:55. See the weekly Sports Schedule in this issue for all your MCHS and MCMS sporting events for the upcoming week.