By R. Alan Richardson
The Morgan County High School baseball season is upon us with the Diamond Dogs looking forward to their first games this week. MOCO opened up the 2020 season Tuesday at home against Grovetown. Results were not available at press time. The Dogs will play again at home Feb. 14 vs. Athens Christian. The first pitch is scheduled for 5:55.
Coach Merritt Ainslie is entering his fifth year at the helm of the program. His success is well-documented with a Final Four appearance two years ago. The 2019 season was highlighted by a second place 8-AAA finish, a 23-10 record, and another State Tournament appearance where the Dogs fell in the first round to Redan two games to one by scores of 12-11, 5-6, and 13-11.
The key to this season’s success, according to Ainslie, will be his four key seniors that are returning to the lineup. Ethan Stamps and Dominic Arienzo are two of those. Both players have signed letters of intent to attend and play at the college level. Stamps is headed to Lipscomb while Arienzo has inked with Georgia College and State University. Speedster Seth Robertson, a three-sport standout, will return in the outfield. He, too, will be playing at the college level in football at Georgia Southern next fall, and Brandyn Batchelor brings a potent bat to the lineup as the returning first baseman.
Ainslie said, “Our goals for 2020 are to get better every day, have a high chemistry and morale, and compete hard on every repetition.” That mental toughness will be required for the Dogs to compete for another Region Championship with Jefferson and Hart County, along with MOCO, being penciled in as the preseason frontrunners in 8-AAA. Hart County’s orange and black Bulldogs made it the final four before being ousted by eventual State Champions Pike County. The Dragons of Jefferson were put out by Westminster in the first round 2-1.
Ainslie also told us that a highlight for the season will be a trip to Augusta for a Diamond Day against Evans and Lakeside-Evans the last weekend in February.