By R. Alan Richardson
In what shaped up to be the 4-AAA regular season Region Championship battle between the Morgan County Lady Dogs and the Lady Dogs of Harlem High School, MOCO came up one game short of claiming the title in the 11-3 loss. This one belonged to the home team from the get-go as Harlem put five runs on the board in the first inning and never looked back.
With Morgan County holding a slight lead in the region, thanks to a 7-6 walkoff victory in Madison a few weeks ago, this was a “winner take all” final regular season matchup between the two teams.
Harlem wasted no time setting the tone for this one. After a three up, three down top of the first inning for Morgan, Harlem jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a flurry of sharp doubles into the left center field gap to quickly get on the board. After shutting down Morgan again with two more strikeouts in the top of the second, Harlem increased their lead with three more runs, capped by two run homer to center field that really opened up the scoring to an 8-0 lead for the home team.
Not only did the Harlem bats come to play, but so did the Harlem pitcher, who held Morgan scoreless into the third inning. Morgan County finally got on the board in the third when Emma Garrison worked the count and drew a lead off walk. Parker Spain roped one into the right field corner for a triple that scored Autumn Callaway, pinch running for Garrison. Morgan was able to finally quiet the Harlem bats in the bottom of the third, keeping the score at 8-1 heading into the fourth.
The Lady Dogs made things interesting in that frame when they were able to scratch across two more runs with some sharp singles off the bats of Ryan Henderson and Leah Spain, and a beautiful bunt single by third baseman Emmie Moss. Other hard hit balls that went right at the Harlem defense could have made things tighter.
With the score at 8-3 and the Dogs closing the gap, momentum was starting to shift toward Morgan’s side but the power hitting Harlem catcher had other plans. Her homer to deep left field was the exclamation point to a 10-3 lead at the end of four stanzas.
Morgan’s last gasp would come in the top of the fifth inning. After Emma Garner reached on an error, Henderson drilled a double deep into the right field corner, putting runners at second and third. A walk would load the bases, but Morgan would come up empty and leave the bases full of Dogs.
The Region Championship would be decided in the bottom of the fifth when Harlem was able to plate one final run to end the game prematurely under the GHSA’s eight run deficit rule after five innings.
Final score of the Region Championship: Harlem – 11 Morgan – 3
Hitting leaders for the day were:
Ryan Henderson 2 for 3 (1 double)
Parker Spain 1 for 3 (1 triple)
Emma Garner 1 for 3
Leah Spain 1 for 3
Emmie Moss 1 for 2
Thanks to Stephen Hill for his corroboration on this article.