By R. Alan Richardson
In the home opener for the 2018 softball team, the Lady Dogs got the win in their final at-bat to take the win 6-5, but it wasn’t pretty. Uncharacteristically, the girls committed nine errors in the contest to give the Commerce Lady Tigers a chance to stay in the game. If not for the late-inning heroics of McKenna Camp, Dakota Cepuran’s two run homer, Nichole Edwards, and Maeson Tanner, the Bulldogs might have been hanging their heads after this one.
Newcomer Bailey Nix, a junior transfer from Monroe, got the nod in the circle and pitched a complete game for her first win as a Lady Dog. She said, “It was really exciting to get my first win as a Bulldog. It was an exciting win for our team.” Nix struck out six and did not walk a single batter while giving up eight hits on the evening.
Morgan got on the board with two runs in the first inning. After Zoey Brown singled and stole second she was followed up by a line drive RBI single from All-State shortstop Alissa Webb to score Brown. With two outs sophomore first baseman Reign Williams also singled sharply to score Webb to give the team a 2-0 edge after one inning.
MOCO scored another run in the third when Webb drew a walk and grabbed another stolen base. Another All-State Selection, catcher Madison Henry, had an outstanding at-bat fouling off about 10 pitches in a 15-20 pitch appearance at the plate. She finally drove a ball to right center field that was dropped to score Webb (her second of the game). The insurance run put the Lady Dogs up 3-0 going into the fourth inning.
Commerce came alive in the fourth when Morgan committed three errors that accounted for two unearned runs and put the Lady Tigers within striking distance. A pitching change in the fourth by Commerce held the Dogs in check until the final inning. Commerce struck again in the fifth to take the 4-3 lead when MOCO committed three more errors. A leadoff double to right centerfield followed by an error and a single did most of the damage when the girls just couldn’t seem to find the handle on some routine plays they usually make. It could have been worse. Morgan pulled off an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and only one out. Webb scooped up a grounder, fired to home for the force, and Henry alertly threw to third for the third out of the inning.
Commerce added one more to their total in the top of the seventh when they came up with a single, sacrifice, and another single. It was 5-3 and the girls were on their last gasp at-bat.
Camp came in to pinch hit and drew a four pitch walk to bring up Cepuran. She hit a bomb to center that left no doubt to tie things up. The bench erupted. After the game, Cepuran said, “It felt really good off the bat. I pretty much knew it was gone. It was an inside off speed pitch right in my spot. I think we were pretty lucky to win this game.” Edwards was then called on to pinch hit for Tanner and got hit by a pitch to put the winning run on. Tanner reentered the game to run and immediately stole second to put the game-winner in scoring position. Leadoff hitter Hannah Callaway did her job by sacrificing Tanner to third. It was then that Coach Jason McBay, a self-described riverboat gambler, called for a squeeze bunt with two strikes on the hitter. It was a gutsy call. However, the batter missed the ball on the bunt to catch Tanner in a rundown between third and home. A miscue throw allowed her to score the winning run in grand fashion.
McBay said, “That might have been a dumb call, probably was with our best hitter on deck (Webb), but thankfully it all worked out.” He praised some of his substitutes for being ready to play when the team needed them most. “When you make out your lineup for us, there are people you want to make sure are on the card. Players like McKenna Camp and Nichole Edwards didn’t get to play for six and a half innings. They could have sat around and pouted, but that’s not who they are. When their number was called, they came up big for the team. The stolen base by Maeson was also big. Sure, everybody is going to remember the big homerun by Dakota to tie the game, but it’s those little things that win close games for you.” He laughed, “We didn’t exactly play our best game on defense with those nine errors, but Brandy pitched well for us in her first outing. We obviously have a lot of work on defense, but to come away with a win tonight will hopefully let us see we have to be sound defensively to win against the best teams we play.”
Morgan’s JV played the opener against Commerce coming up short 7-2. There were a lot of bright spots for the youngsters. Errors also plagued them in their contest. The Lady Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the Lady Dogs scored two in the fourth and final inning due to time constraints. In that inning, Sara Peppers led off the inning with a walk and stole second. An error allowed her to reach third before she stole home for the first run of the game. Emma Garrison then walked and kept running to second which allowed Peppers to score by stealing home. Garrison later scored on a single to centerfield by eight grader second baseman Brianna Lanford who had a nice game.
Coach Timothy Roop said, “This is the first time these girls have all been on the field together. I thought we had several positives to take from today. Brianna was amazing at second base. Jenna Lyons was great at short, and Avery Camp pitched well for her first JV outing in the circle. Errors didn’t help her cause. We gave them runs after errors. It would have been a whole different game without that.”
The Dogs also played Monticello and Jefferson this past week after our deadline. Those games will be reported on next week.
See this week’s upcoming sports schedule for all your Bulldog action in the coming week.