Henry and Finney lead Lady Dogs past Alcovy to open season

By Justin Hubbard



Led by strong outings from senior Katee Finney and junior Madison Henry, the Morgan County softball team opened its regular season Monday night with a 6-2 win over Alcovy High School.

The Lady Dogs fell behind early after an uncharacteristic throwing error by junior shortstop Alissa Webb cost them a run in the first inning. They tied things up the next inning then opened up their lead a couple innings later, thanks in large part to Henry’s multi-hit and multi-RBI performance.

“We came out and the first inning was kind of rough, I'm not gonna lie,” Henry said. “We started a little shaky but we quickly got that under (control). When we got to hit, we kind of calmed down, got things under our belt and we really took off from there.”

Morgan head coach Jason McBay said there is definitely room for improvement, though he was satisfied with the victory.

“You always want to start 1-0 and you always want to win at home in front of the home crowd,” McBay said. “I'm happy for that, but there's a lot of stuff to think about. Finding the right lineup and the right flow of offense is gonna be a big thing for us.”

Henry was not the only Lady Dog who enjoyed a good offensive performance. Seniors Mary Trent Chandler and Sadie Worth, along with junior Gracie Williams and Webb, had solid results at the plate.

But when Henry connected on a pitch in the early goings that was destined for the outfield wall the moment it left her bat, it was clear she was in for a big game.

Henry said she’d faced the Alcovy pitcher before, which allowed her to anticipate the way she attacked the Lady Dogs.

“I knew she was gonna be slow,” Henry said. “I've seen her in past seasons for travel ball. She's a lefty; she was gonna stay about belt-high outside. So I just took that and took it that way.”

Playing on a team crowded with seven seniors, Henry was not an everyday player last year. She flashed her potential, though, hitting 21 times in only 82 at-bats and smacking four homers.

Henry’s .256 batting average left something to be desired, but McBay said he believes Henry is poised to have a breakout year.

“She's turned a corner,” he said. “Honestly, with her, I think it's more off the field than on the field; just being comfortable with who she is. That's something we preach all the time: be the best 'you' you can be. I think in years past she's tried so hard to prove herself. She's playing with a lot of confidence and also with a lot of peace. I think she's off to a great start and I expect her to have a really big season for us.”

Finney’s work in the pitcher’s circle turned heads, too.

She pitched the entire game and only allowed one earned run. Finney got out of a few jams, including in the seventh inning when the Tigers had two runners on base with only one out.

McBay said Nicole Edwards was originally scheduled to pitch but she didn’t feel well. In stepped Finney, who said she was honored to get the ball on opening day.

“It's an amazing feeling, just to be able to go out there and know that you're the person that they selected,” Finney said.

Despite her veteran status, Monday was Finney’s first game with Morgan. She recently moved to the area from Charleston, Illinois, which is located about three hours south of Chicago and is the home of Eastern Illinois University.

Henry said Finney’s done an “amazing” job fitting in with the rest of the players.

“It's just an awesome feeling to know that, as a new player, they've accepted me as one of their own and just trust me and what I do,” Finney said.

McBay said although he was impressed by Finney’s work, he will not name a No. 1 pitcher anytime soon. The plan for now is to start whichever pitcher performs the best during practice.

The concept is new to McBay, he said, and is a change from last year’s setup which saw Ansley Dean pitch all 219 innings of the season.

But of course, there’s a bunch of things different about this year’s squad. The Lady Dogs were expected to perform well a year ago when they entered with a ton of veteran talent. Now, Henry said she thinks many outside the program have their doubts about the team’s chances of repeating or improving upon its Elite Eight appearance in 2016.

“I think we're the underdogs this year. I really do,” Henry said. “I know there's been talk about [making a playoff run] and I really believe it this year. I think people underestimate us a lot, and I don't think they should.”

Finney said she was in agreement with her teammate.

“I think we have a very good chance of making it back to Columbus,” she said. “If we give it our all, we can be unstoppable.”

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