By R. Alan Richardson
The Lady Diamond Dogs punched their ticket to the State Playoffs with two straight wins in a three-game series over the Lady Bulldogs from Hart County to secure a final four finish in the 8-AAA Region Tournament. Bailey Nix pitched 111 scoreless innings in the two games and Dakota Cepuran had a monster day at the plate to lead the way for MOCO. On top of those performances, Morgan made some ridiculous defensive plays all around to shut down Hart 8-0 in game one and 7-0 in game two. It was the kind of performance that Coach Jason McBay should be proud of. He said, “Super proud of my girls and the way they stayed in the moment despite possible distractions with homecoming. They really bought into the game plan that we presented and when we got here today the focus level was right where we wanted it! Bailey Nix pitched two great games and we played lights out on defense. Great plays all over the field! Our biggest challenge now will be to sustain that level of competitiveness for every single pitch here on out. Next week, we have big challenges; starting with Jackson on Tuesday. I feel like these girls will rise to the occasion. We can’t get satisfied and gotta stay hungry and keep climbing together.”
Game one ended after five innings as the mercy rule came into play and Morgan leading 8-0. Nix pitched a one-hit gem in the opener. That hit came in the second inning on a double to the fence. She was quickly wiped off the bases with one of several outta sight defensive plays when she tried to take third on the arm of centerfielder Alissa Webb. Not a smart idea as the All-Stater threw her out at third. It wasn’t even close. Webb made another outstanding catch against the fence in the final inning as she took one off the warning track and ran into the fence. It was the kind of play that the Dogs would continue throughout the day.
Morgan scored two in the first inning of game one when leadoff hitter Webb used her speed to beat out an infield single. Zoey Brown singled to score Webb, who was already on third with two stolen bases, and Avery Kinnett got the RBI on a bouncer back to the mound to make it 2-0. MOCO got another run in the second when Hannah Callaway reached on an error, Maeson Tanner moved her to third on a nice sacrifice bunt, and Cepuran got her first RBI of the day with a single.
With the score 3-0, Morgan sent eight batters to the plate in the third scoring four more. Reign Williams walked and stole second, Brown got an infield single, and Kinnett walked to load the bases. Callaway walked to bring one run in and Tanner got a single to score two more. Second baseman Jenna Lyons then singled to score pinch runner McKenna Camp for the 7-0 lead. Morgan finished off Hart in the fifth inning when Williams walked and then stole her way to third. She later scored on an error by the catcher to end the game after five.
Game two was similar in that the girls got a seven-run lead after three innings of play, but couldn’t put Hart away. It went seven innings and ended 7-0. Cepuran came up big in this one as the designated hitter with a homer in the second for two RBI’s, a single in the third for two more, and a double to right field in the fifth. Webb scored runs in the first and second innings, and Callaway scored two times in the game as well. There were a number of stellar defensive plays in this one. Kinnett pulled off a superb stretch and scoop for the final out of the third inning on a throw in the dirt. Lyons made a difficult play on a soft liner behind second base that had base hit written all over it. Behind the plate Tanner made a diving catch on a foul ball near the visitors’ dugout that had the fans, coaches, and her teammates giving her a standing ovation. Brown went deep in the shortstop hole in the fifth to make a tough out look routine. This was quite likely the best defensive game the Lady Dogs have played this season.
Morgan got one in the first on a Webb single, stolen base, and fielder’s choice. Brown sacrificed her home on a bunt for the 1-0 lead. The game was broken open in the second as Morgan sent four runners across the plate. Callaway reached on an error. Cepuran followed that up with a blast to left center that left no doubt. Lyons reached on an error and was driven in by Webb’s single. Williams sent Webb home with a single of her own.
McBay’s squad got their final two runs in the third. A leadoff infield hit by Kinnett got things going. Callaway singled, Tanner reached on an outfield error, and Cepuran drove both runners across with a single and two more RBI’s giving her five in two games. This one ended 7-0.
The team will now face off with Jackson County in the Final Four of Region 8-AAA. They are the number two seed behind Jefferson. Jackson is now 8-3 in Region play and 14-9 overall. Morgan is
7-5/16-12 while Jefferson is 11-1/19-5. The fourth seed is Franklin County at 7-5/20-7. All four of these teams are ranked in the top 20 in AAA.