By R. Alan Richardson
Anytime you can get a win, it’s a good day. It’s a good day when it’s against a Region 8-AAA opponent. It’s still a good day when it comes in extra innings and an even better day when it’s a walk-off win. What makes it a great day is when it’s against the Hart County Lady Bulldogs of the orange and black variety. Bulldogs are not supposed to be orange and black. They are red and black.
That’s just what the Morgan County Lady Diamond Dogs softball team did this past week. Coach Jason McBay described the action like this, “WHAT… A… GAME!!! After a rainout on Tuesday, the Lady Dogs came out with a somewhat lackluster effort in the top of the first inning. The Bulldogs from Hart County scored two runs on two hits and two errors. Both teams exchanged jabs for the next four innings until the bottom of the fifth inning when the good Lady Dogs erupted for four runs. Avery Kinnett led off the inning with a solo homerun, Zoey Brown followed with a single and stolen base, Maeson Tanner added a walk, Hannah Callaway added a single then Briana Lanford added the big blow – a three RBI double to the gap. Morgan looked to be in control until the top of seventh. With Hart County down to their last strike, they hit a three RBI double to take a 5-4 lead. With their backs against the wall, Senior Hannah Callaway delivered a long homerun to left center to tie it. Game went into extra innings, where with two outs in the eighth inning Parker Spain delivered a walk off RBI single to seal the deal. On the night, Avery Kinnett had three hits (single, double, HR), Maeson Tanner and Sara Peppers had two singles each, Parker Spain was two for five (singles), Hannah Callaway was two for four with a single and HR, Brianna Lanford was two for four with a single and a double, and Emma Garner and Zoey Brown added a single each. Bailey Nix picked up the win moving to 7 and 3 on the season. With the win, the Lady Dogs move to 10-6 on the season and 5-4 in the region.” This old sportswriter may be looking for a job after that description.
The week wasn’t just about the Hart County thriller, but also a busy week all-around for the MOCO team. McBay explained, “It was a long week for sure. We got rained out Tuesday after playing a little softball and then traveled to Jackson County on Wednesday before playing five games over two days in our Lady Dog Invitational this weekend. It was a good week for us beating Hart and then losing 3-1 to JC against one of the best pitchers in the state. You never want moral victories, but we played well against them. Then we took on and beat three teams from AAA (Cherokee Bluff 9-3, Jackson, (GA) 7-1, and Westminster 16-3) before we hit a brick wall Saturday. We lost to Strong Rock Christian 9-1 and Newton 5-1.” The Lady Dogs finished fourth in their tournament and Banks County took home the Championship Trophy for the annual event. Kinnett had a monster night Friday for MOCO going 7-7 in the two games including two homeruns, three doubles, and two singles. Other highlights included Maeson Tanner’s first home run of the season, a three-run homer by Callaway after an 11 pitch at-bat, and solid pitching by Nix, Sarah Ellen Mercer, and Emma Garner.
McBay expounded on his team’s play, “I’m proud of the girls. They are a scrappy team with personalities that work well together. It took them a while to gel and figure things out. We’re 13-9 overall and in fourth place in the toughest softball region in the state. We’re not in the best shape, but it’s better than being fifth where you have to go on the road and win just to get into the tournament. There’s also the outlier of a possible at-large bid. I don’t mind gambling and playing a little Texas hold ‘em or some Fantasy Football, but I don’t like gambling on an at-large bid. We want to finish the season out the right way and earn our spot into the playoffs.”
Jefferson, Franklin County, and Jackson County are all in a dogfight right now for the top seed with the three tied in Region play at 8-2. Morgan can’t catch them, but there could be an opportunity down the road for an upset of one of the frontrunners. Last year Franklin County won the State Championship after being the fourth seed from 8-AAA. Jefferson was runner-up and Sonoraville (who put the Lady Dogs out) finished third.
“It’s all about getting hot at the right time. These girls are grinding. You hate to compare using scores and stats, but all three of the teams we beat this weekend are either second or third in their AAA Regions. That tells you a little bit about how tough this Region really is and has been year-in and year-out. When it comes down to it, at least we’re battle tested and ready to compete with the best in the state. You’ve already been playing against the best,” said McBay.
No question that Region 8-AAA puts out quality teams in softball and many other sports. It’s a testament to the coaches, players, parents, schools and communities that take a vested interest in their student-athletes. One thing’s for sure. The Lady Dogs will be there. You better hope they don’t get hot or watch out.
The Lady Dogs played Franklin Tuesday after our deadline and will honor their seniors at their last home game of the season vs. Alcovy on 9/24. They will play East Jackson on Sept. 19 and Monticello on the 23rd on the road. First pitches are at 5:30.