By R. Alan Richardson
Morgan County’s baseball team took on some tough competition this week with games against higher classification Archer from 7-A and Locust Grove in 5-A. The Dogs held their own in all three games coming up just short to the Tigers on Thursday at home 2-1 in a final inning thriller. They exacted some revenge Friday by defeating them at home 6-2 before losing another close one Saturday to the Wildcats 5-3 in Locust Grove. After the smoke cleared, the Dogs stand at 19-5 overall and undefeated in Region play at 12-0.
Both teams are at the top of their respective Region races and provided MOCO with some nice opposition going into the all-important final Region stretch for the Dogs. Morgan will end the regular season with two highly important series against East Jackson and Jefferson. More on that race in a minute.
In Thursday’s loss the Dogs got a stellar performance from Jacob Anderson who came on in relief for Jaron Ferguson. Ferguson pitched well, but has been limited in his pitch count while coming off a shoulder injury. He only gave up one run in the first inning in a shortened outing. After that, Anderson shut the door until the top of the eighth when Archer scored the go-ahead and winning run after a single, walk, balk, and error. Archer’s pitchers had the Morgan hitters’ number most of the evening with the Dogs only managing four hits over eight innings. Their lone run came in the fourth stanza when Blake Silvey drew a walk to get things going. Pinch runner Will Harper reached second on a fielder’s choice and Ferguson got the RBI with a single up the middle. Ferguson was 2-3 to lead the Dogs at the plate. Anderson struck out six on the mound and gave up four hits.
Friday’s affair was more like it with the Dogs getting the road win 6-2. Coach Merritt Ainslie summed up the game for us. “We hit the ball hard and Hunter Lane threw well. He had a low pitch count, scattered eight hits, and got some solid defense behind him. Their field was big (400 feet to center) for a high school field. Ethan Stamps, Hunter Lane, and Jaron Ferguson hit some deep balls that would have been home runs on our field. Their speed in the outfield made all but Stamps’ shot deep outs in the gaps. Their outfield includes a D-I centerfielder headed to Georgia State and Andrew Booth. He’s the number two ranked defensive back in the country and is headed to play football for Clemson.
We jumped out to a 3-0 early lead, but Archer got a run in the third to make things closer. They changed pitchers who walked the bases loaded and Brandyn Batchelor got a big clutch hit to drive in two more runs for the 5-1 lead. Both teams scored a run in the seventh to make the final 6-2.” Stamps got three hits and Lane two in the win. The Dogs played nearly perfect baseball in the field with only one error committed on a miscommunication between outfielders in right field. “We played good defense and pretty solid baseball Friday,” he added.
In a late rescheduled contest Saturday at Locust Grove, Morgan got another good performance on the mound from one of their aces, Stamps. However, a hot-hitting home team took advantage of three errors and several hits to take the win 5-3. The Dogs took a 3-0 lead after two innings, but it was all Wildcats after that scoring one in the second, one in the third, one in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Ainslie said, “We hit the ball hard the first two innings. After that, their pitcher pretty much dialed it up and carved us up at the plate pretty good striking out nine after that. We didn’t play poorly. Some weird things happened. Ethan picked off a runner on third to end an inning and had another one picked off at second. The ball hit the runner’s helmet and bounced into right field. He scored all the way from second on that play. We just didn’t swing the bats on fast balls early in the count and put ourselves in off speed situations. That’s not when we’re at our best. We didn’t handle the off speed stuff very well. Right now we’re just going to put these losses in our rearview mirror and keep getting better at what we do. Fortunately, these aren’t Region losses.”
In other news around the Region, Jefferson took its first loss of the season losing 2-1 to East Jackson. That loss puts Morgan in the driver’s seat leading the league at 12-0 with six games remaining. The top four teams right now are Morgan at number one, Jefferson at number two only a half game back, Hart County in third, and East Jackson moving up to fourth. This week MOCO will face off with a much-improved East Jackson team with a single game at East Jackson Wednesday at 5:55 before returning home for a doubleheader Friday at home starting at 5:00. If they can come through unscathed this week, it will set up a showdown with the Dragons of Jefferson in the last week and final Region series of the regular season. This is gonna be fun. You don’t want to miss one pitch of the action.