By R. Alan Richardson
It took almost 10 hours and 23 innings of baseball over two days to determine the first round State Playoff winner in the Morgan County vs. Redan series. The Dogs fell to the Raiders in the best-of-three series in heartbreaking fashion in the third game. After making a miracle comeback in game one that could have left the visitors in a state of shock and ready to head back to their Atlanta-based homes, Redan held on to win the final two games and move on to round two.
Give them credit. The Raiders were a class act that simply had a little too much team speed, hitting, pitching, and defense for the Dogs to overcome. What a series it was. It would prove to be the final series and final games for a senior class that will be remembered as one of the best. Hunter Lane, Jacob Anderson, Jaron Ferguson, Blake Silvey, and Chandler Wright said farewell after an emotional series loss.
Game one had one of the most bizarre endings you will ever see in a baseball game. Seriously. This old boy hasn’t seen one like this, that’s for sure. With the Dogs trailing 11-8 and only three outs between them and being down 1-0 in the series, Morgan pulled off the 12-11 win. It wasn’t that they scored four runs, but how they scored them that put this one in the books of all-time weird victories.
The inning started when starting pitcher Jacob Anderson was hit by a pitch. Dominic Arienzo was next up and was also hit by a pitch. After a popup to short, Seth Robertson came to the plate. He, too, took one on the chin to load the bases. Jaron Ferguson was next up and guess what? He was also hit by an errant pitch that brought in a run. The craziness continued as the next two batters (Hunter Lane and Ethan Stamps) were issued walks to tie the game. With no outs and the bases loaded and the winning run now on third, Redan had no option but to pull everyone in to try and get the force out at home. Brandyn Batchelor hit a high-chopping grounder to second that looked like a sure force out, but the throw was wide up the third base line. The Redan catcher made a furious attempt to tag out a sliding Ferguson, but the tag was late. It was a bang-bang play that the catcher and Redan coaching staff vehemently argued, but to no avail. It was on to game two with the Dogs in control after the 12-11, three and a half hour marathon.
That was just the beginning to the night’s festivities. The nightcap went nine innings and added another thriller to the series as the Raiders came away with the 6-5 win that ended at 12:54 a.m. the next day.
Game two saw Morgan come up with a run in the first as leadoff hitter Robertson scored in the first after he reached on a walk, stole second, and went to third on an error. Lane drove him in on an infield ground for the RBI. Redan answered with one of their own in the third to tie things up at one apiece. The Raiers added three more runs to the lead in the fourth that included a two-run shot over the left field fence, and got one more in the fifth. With the lead at 5-1, and the Dogs running out of outs, they rallied in the sixth with three runs to make it a game at 5-4.
In the top of the sixth, it wasBlake Silvey, who had a phenomenal series behind the plate, who walked with two outs. Consecutive walks were then issued to Anderson, Arienzo, and Will Harper to bring in a run. Robertson hit a liner to short that was bobbled to score a run and give the Dogs new life.
MOCO tied the score in the top of the seventh when Lane walked, Stamps doubled off the left field fence, and Batchelor got a sacrifice fly for the all-important run.
After Redan was unable to score, the game went two extra stanzas. Morgan came up empty at the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, and the Raiders took advantage in their final at-bat. The first batter struck out before a flare to right field ended in a single. The next batter walked. With the winning run on second, Redan got a walk-off single RBI that took the victory and tying the series at 1-1. The 12:54 a.m. ending left two extremely tired teams prepared to face off on Thursday in the rubber match of the series. It again went down to the wire.
The finale didn’t start out exactly as the Dogs would have liked. The first batter for Redan homered on the first pitch of the game. One out later, a double down the third base line was followed by another homer to left field that gave the Raiders an early 3-0 lead. Never fear. The Dogs rebounded back with four of their own in the bottom portion of the inning. Robertson and Ferguson led off the inning by getting hit by pitches before starting pitcher Lane walked to load the bases. Stamps drove in a run with a sac fly before Batchelor planted one in the left field seats to take a 4-3 advantage. It was his first home run of the season.
If you like scoring, this one had plenty of it. The final tally of 13-11 saw both teams hitting the ball all over the park. The Dogs got one in the second on an error, sacrifice bunt by Robertson, and a double by Ferguson to drive in Maddux Smith. Trailing 8-5, they got five more in the fifth to make it 10-8. In that big inning, Morgan had runs scored by Ferguson, Lane, Batchelor, Silvey, and Jacob Anderson. The big blow of the inning was a bases clearing triple down the right field line by Anderson. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Arienzo.
Things went south for the home team in the sixth when a lead-off homer got the Raiders started. After the bases got jammed on a walk, single, and fielder’s choice, Redan got the go-ahead and eventual winning runs. A double that cleared the bases followed by a sacrifice fly and another single was all they would need to take the 13-10 lead.
Morgan fought back in the bottom frame by scoring another run. A walk and stolen base by Robertson, and a double to the left centerfield fence by Stamps got the Dogs one run closer. However, the Dogs couldn’t muster anything up in the bottom of the seventh going down in order. Game 13-11. Series over. An emotional ending to a great season for five wonderfully talented seniors seemed impossible for this group. That’s what happens in sports. It’s certainly not the ending they were hoping for.