By R. Alan Richardson
In a week that featured five Region games and another non-region, MOCO came away unscathed against 8-AAA opponents to remain tied at the top of the standings with Jefferson. The Diamond Dogs had a single loss to Madison County 8-1 on Wednesday; the only scuff mark on their record. Morgan County continued their series with Hart on Monday with a doubleheader in Hartwell. After winning both of those games (2-0 and 15-0) and sweeping the series, they continued their dominance over the Region competition with another sweep of Monroe Area starting on Tuesday. The scores of those three games were 8-3, 8-2, and 13-0. Once the smoke cleared after the busy week, the Dogs came away boasting a 12-3 overall record and standing 6-0 in 8-AAA action.
Morgan rode the hot pitching and hitting of the lineup throughout the week, but none stood out as much as senior pitcher, third baseman, and right fielder Jacob Anderson. The senior had home runs in each of three games against Monroe Area and was solid on the mound in his two starts picking up wins. In the Friday night double header, he had nine RBI’s! Another hot hand was Hunter Lane. In his start over Monroe on Friday, he was lights out in a five-inning performance. The right-hander faced only 16 batters with the only hit coming off the bat of Monroe’s leadoff hitter, Chandler Byron, in the first inning. You might have heard of him. He was the AAA football player-of-the-year and quarterback for the Canes. In his near no-hitter/perfect game, Lane struck out nine and did not allow another runner to reach base.
Ethan Stamps was instrumental in the week’s success as well on the mound and at his shortstop position. The junior continues to hammer the baseball to all parts of the field. His 4-6 outing at the plate vs. Monroe Friday included two doubles and a single to the opposite field showing why he is such a disciplined and sound hitter. The meat of the order also includes catcher Blake Silvey. Not only is he surpassing expectations behind the plate, he has become another menace at the plate.
Coach Merritt Ainslie talked about his batting order with these words, “We had 15 out of 26 opposite or up middle hits against Monroe Friday. We’ve been focusing on hitting it where it’s pitched. I thought earlier we had been trying to pull ball and see how far you can hit it. You take pitches away from them by going opposite field. We want our players to make adjustments at the plate, and we’re talented enough to do that on game day. It’s all about being unselfish. Friday’s performance was indicative of that. We’ve had some guys that have been inconsistent that we’re counting on. They are starting to heat up. If we can do that, you could see nine hitters in our lineup that are hard outs. It’s all about being a tough out. In high school pitchers are used to seeing the first five or six hitters and then get some outs down the lineup. It makes it mentally tough on a pitcher if the bottom of your lineup is almost as tough to get out as the top. A pitcher can’t relax. We just want our hitters to hit the ball hard.” Another point he alluded to was the one-two punch of leadoff hitter Tristan Stapp and Seth Robertson. The Coach has been utilizing Robertson in the nine-hole. It’s almost as if the Dogs have two leadoff hitters with their speed as baserunners and ability to get on base. MOCO has stolen 80-84 bases on the year with Robertson leading the way with 19 of his own.
Ainslie commented, “I was proud of the way our two young pitchers did Tuesday against Madison County. Maddux Smith and Ben Coody pitched well enough for us to win I thought, but uncharacteristic errors and a lack of run production didn’t help them out. They battled and competed against much older players. It’s different for them, but there were some coachable moments in that game. They just need to keep listening, make adjustments, learn, grow, and never be satisfied.”
Coody struck out the first batter he faced to end the inning with two runners in scoring position. He commented, “Completely diff from anything I’ve been into. I was not really nervous, but as I got into it I started soaking in what it was really like and started to relax more. I learned that I have a lot of work on little things like tipping my pitches and knowing where the ball is going before the pitch happens.”
Morgan will next play a doubleheader at Franklin County Friday night. First pitch will be at 8 p.m.