By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Morgan County High School (MCHS) JV Diamond Dogs put a cherry on top of their undefeated 15-0 2014 season last Saturday by beating Jackson County and the Jefferson Dragons for the Northeast Georgia JV League Championship. The Dogs beat Jackson County 11-0 in only five innings for a semifinal win before holding on against Jefferson 5-3 to win the league championship.

Morgan County scored a single run in the top of the first inning against Jackson County with a sacrifice fly by Justin Miner to put up a 1-0 run that would remain until the top of the third inning, when the Dogs were able to add another seven runs to their score. Austin Hale was the first to drive a runner in during the third inning, before TJ Howell and Zach Howe added another three RBIs combined. Two more runs put the score in the Dogs’ favor 8-0. Three runs in the top of the fifth inning would end the game on the run rule with the final score 11-0.

“The boys did what they’ve done all season, which is to keep battling even when there were two outs,” said MCHS JV Baseball Coach Doug Connelly. “I don’t have the exact stats, but I’d bet that a least half of our runs over the course of the season came with two outs.” Justin Miner pitched the complete game for Morgan County, giving up only two hits during the five innings. “After the first inning, Justin settled in and dominated their hitters,” said Coach Connelly. “He had great command of his changeup and got a lot of hitters to hit weak pop ups and ground balls.” “Jackson County had a good team, no doubt about it,” said Coach Connelly. “They just had a bad game at the worst possible time. On the other hand, we played the same brand of baseball we have been playing all season.” “The conditions were terrible, so I was really proud of how our guys responded, especially the way we took care of the baseball.”

Coach Connelly said that the JV Dogs faced their “stiffest test of the season” against the Jefferson Dragons to earn the league championship 5-3. The Dogs were able to load the bases in the first, second, and fourth innings without adding a run to the scoreboard, and they were trailing 0-2 going into the top of the fifth inning. “By that point, the frustration was building up,” said Connelly. “ We just kept talking about ‘cashing in.’ We were certainly getting our opportunities.” Morgan County was again able to load the bases in the fifth inning, but Austin Rapier was able to break the game open for the Dogs with a single to center field that brought Dalton Cole home for the first Morgan County run of the game.

Wyatt Martin came around third on the hit and scored after the center fielder’s throw went over the catcher’s head, which, in turn, allowed Zack Howe to score after a bad throw to third. Now ahead 3-2, the Dogs had their first lead of the game, which Dakota Young was able to extend by an additional point with an RBI single. “Rapier told me before the inning, ‘I want to come in with the bases loaded,’” said Coach Connelly. “He got his opportunity and came through for us big time. It was as clutch as I’ve seen in my coaching career.” The Dogs and the Dragons would each earn an additional run in the seventh inning, and Morgan County held on for a 5-3 win to earn their championship. Luke Zimmerman pitched the first two and one-third innings, and Austin Rapier pitched the remainder of the game for the win. “Austin has thrown a good bit for the JV team the past two seasons, but this was by far his best outing,” said Connelly.

“He was putting his fastball where he wanted it and his change-up was just enough to keep their hitters guessing a little.” Connelly also praised Morgan County’s defense for their role in the win against Jefferson. “Dakota Young shut the opponents’ run game down in both games,” began Connelly. “He threw out a runner early in both games, which limited what they could do offensively. Gage Brown was flawless at second base and made several athletic plays. At first base, TJ Howell saved our infielders a handful of times over the course of two games.” “These types of things might not be flashy or show up in articles and such, but they help you win games, and that was the case today.” Congratulations to the Morgan County JV Diamond Dogs both for their undefeated season and their Northeast Georgia JV League Championship title.