By Nick Nunn
The Diamond Dogs came out of the Athens League tournament last week unscathed, as the undefeated champions of the tournament. After a first-round forfeiture by Jackson County, the Dogs beat Commerce Monday afternoon 11-6 before taking on Oconee County twice in the semifinal and final games, which Morgan County won 14-4 and 3-0, respectively. With these victories, the varsity Dogs end their summer season with a 13-5-1 record.
The junior varsity Dogs also had a great finish to their 11-2 season, defeating Oconee County and Franklin County to win their league tournament as well.
The Dogs came into the first game against Commerce with their bats already hot. Back-to-back RBI doubles by Max Wadsworth and Sam Couch earned Morgan County their first two runs of the tournament in the first inning.
Morgan County moved ahead of Commerce steadily, adding three runs in the second inning and two more in the third inning before Commerce put their first run on the board.
In the last four innings of the game, Commerce managed six runs, but their output was too little too late, as the Dogs pushed ahead for a total of 11 during the game for their first victory of the tournament.
Although Morgan County’s first game against Oconee ended in a 14-4 blowout, the teams went ahead pretty much tit for tat in the first few innings.
The Dogs began with two runs in the bottom of the first thanks to RBI singles by Brantley Frost and Maclane Zant.
Oconee responded with a run in the second, before the Dogs returned with two runs from an RBI double by Frost and an RBI single by Ryan Burden.
In the top of the fourth, Oconee County tied the game at 4-4 by pushing three runs across the plate, but the tie didn’t last for very long; the Dogs came back in the bottom of the fourth with another two runs.
Morgan County was able to score eight more times in the fifth and sixth innings while holding the Warriors scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the final two innings alone, Cody Harper racked up four RBIs, while John Milledge Wells earned two.
Max Wadsworth pitched all six innings for the Dogs, during which he only allowed two earned runs on eight hits.
The championship game of the tournament, again against Oconee County, progressed very differently than the first matchup of these two teams; instead of depending on offensive power to assure their victory, the Dogs had to rely on solid defense several times to keep Oconee County from making it home during the low-scoring game, which Morgan County won 3-0.
The Dogs’ three runs all came in the second inning. After loading the bases against Oconee County, the Warriors’ pitcher, Kole Faulkner, walked John Milledge Wells for Morgan County’s first run of the game. During the next at-bat, a passed ball allowed a second run to score for Morgan County.
Wells scored the third and final run for the Dogs in the second inning on a throwing error, which brought him home from second.
Although both teams were able to get runners into scoring position a few times during the remaining innings, neither were able to add additional points to the board, giving Morgan County their final victory of the tournament 3-0.
Brantley Frost and Clark Owen shared pitching duties against Oconee County, allowing no runs and only five hits between them. Frost struck out seven batters and walked only one, while Owen struck out two and walked one batter.
Kole Faulkner, during his first varsity start for the Warriors as a rising ninth grader, pitched a complete game, earning only a single run on six hits.
Varsity Head Coach Brandon Patch was very pleased by the outcome of the summer season and the performances that he got from his athletes.
“This summer was great for us, we definitely got to see and evaluate many players in a variety of roles, especially pitching, as we saw eight kids throw six innings or more, including four sophomores,” began Coach Patch. “Our pitching was solid throughout the summer and we hope to build on that depth for next spring by increasing our velocity and developing our secondary pitches.”
“Additionally, our defense was great throughout,” continued Patch. “We finished the summer season with a .950 fielding percentage as a team. I couldn’t be more pleased with that stat considering we moved kids to different positions and asked players to play in places they are unaccustomed to.”
“Offensively, we had our moments where we hit well in the beginning, but hit a lull mid summer and didn’t hit to our ability,” admitted Patch. “The last four games, however, I feel like we really put in some quality at bats. Our approach was much more disciplined, especially our two strike hitting and it showed with our run production. Many players contributed offensively in our tourney. We were able to play small ball and hit for power.”
Coach Patch also had a few words for the JV team’s accomplishments during the season, which included a 11-2 record and a tournament championship.
“Our JV players really played with a ton of energy and showed improvement over the 13-game stretch,” said Patch. “Most importantly, they had several come from behind wins, which shows their determination and heart. Unfortunately, the JV had several games lost to rain, otherwise, that win total would’ve likely been higher.”