Morgan softball prepares for state playoffs

In a dramatic play at home plate, Morgan catcher Madison Henry slaps a tag on a Franklin runner to record an out during last week’s Region 8-AAA tournament matchup.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

The Morgan softball regular season did not go quite as well as normal but the Lady Dogs are back in familiar, expected territory: the state tournament.

Morgan opens the state playoffs Wednesday at Greater Atlanta Christian. The two teams will compete in a best-of-three series with the first game beginning at 4:30 p.m. and game two slated for 6:30. Game three, if necessary, will be played Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The series with GAC came on the heels of Morgan’s inconsistent performance last week in the Region 8-AAA tournament.

The Lady Dogs dropped the first game of the region tournament to eventual champion Jackson County, 12-4, last Tuesday. They followed it later that afternoon with a 14-2 beatdown of East Jackson to advance to the next round on Thursday.

Morgan played Franklin with a chance to face Jackson for the region title. Unfortunately for the Lady Dogs, they fell, 16-4, and were eliminated from the tournament.

“We were Jekyll and Hyde,” Morgan head coach Jason McBay said when describing his team’s performance in the region tournament. “It was crazy. We get blown out twice and we blow East Jackson out once. Hopefully, that's not a late-season pattern.”

Alissa Webb said she’s confident the Lady Dogs can go into the playoffs and put the region tournament finish behind them.

“We're weird – we always have a setback and then we come back even stronger,” the junior shortstop said. “We got run-ruled by Jackson and then we played East Jackson. We came back like a totally different team, and I'm hoping the run-rule (loss) against Franklin will help us come out even stronger on Wednesday.”

Webb said Morgan needs to stay focused and have better on-field communication during the playoffs. Junior catcher Madison Henry said executing on offense will be key to the team’s success.

Senior first baseman Sadie Worth said those things are important. However, she said she thinks playing as if there’s no tomorrow will ultimately be the determining factor for the Lady Dogs.

“We can't take any at-bat or any ball that we get hit to us for granted at all, especially for us seniors,” Worth said. “If we take it for granted, that last pitch or that last hit that we get, it'll be our very last one for our high school season. That's why everything needs to be with a purpose, whatever we do. I feel like if we do that, then we'll succeed.”

McBay said last Thursday’s disappointing finish in the region was a result of “just one of those days” where nothing seemed to go right for Morgan.

He mirrored Worth’s comments and said he hopes his players perform Wednesday as if the series against GAC will be their last.

“If we have one of those days, we're done,” he said. “If Wednesday's one of those days, our season's over. Hopefully, they understand the magnitude and the importance of the moment and making every single pitch count.”

Morgan faces a tough challenge in GAC. The Lady Spartans competed for the Region 7-AAA title last week against East Hall but fell, 2-1. GAC still put together a solid year, finishing 13-10 entering this week.

The Lady Dogs (14-18) played Class AAAAAA Greenbrier over the summer before the season kicked off. Worth said the experience of playing a team from a bigger classification helped give them a taste of the strong competition they faced this year, and she thinks playing Greenbrier in the summer could pay off this week against GAC.

“We played against Greenbrier and, sure, they still beat us, but we hung with them,” Worth said. “They could've swept the floor with us but they didn't. I think it ended up being 4-1 or 3-1, so it wasn't drastic.”

McBay and one of his assistants visited one of GAC’s region tournament games last week to scout their opponent. They took note of a handful of the Lady Spartans, including Ally Perez, Maddie Marchiando, who has a season batting average of .544, and Amanda Briskin, who enters the playoffs batting .545.

When the game started, it didn’t take long for McBay to notice GAC’s talent, especially Briskin.

“After watching them the other day, it took maybe one at-bat and I turned to my assistant and I was like, 'That's the best hitter on the team,’” McBay said. “She's one that handles it well. She stays inside the ball, everything's gap-to-gap, up the middle. She's a very disciplined hitter, too.”

McBay said GAC’s tenacity stuck out to him, too.

“Some of the things that we take pride in as far as exploiting in other teams, it's gonna be tougher with this team,” he said. “I don't think they're gonna crumble. If we get up on them early, I don't think they're gonna quit. They've got a lot of fight in them.”

For Morgan to beat a team with that kind of lineup, it can’t squander opportunities on offense. Henry said maintaining focus against the formidable Lady Spartans is a must.

“I think we need to keep it one pitch at a time and just go from there,” Henry said. “As long as we do that and we keep our head in it, we'll be fine.”

Although the season and last week’s region tournament did not go the way the Lady Dogs wanted, they are still confident in their chances entering the state tournament.

McBay said he thinks his team can make a playoff run. It will just require a better performance than they’ve shown in recent games.

“I think it all depends on what team shows up,” he said. “Our juniors and our seniors, if they lead the way and they lead by example early on, I think this is a series we could get. Then, if you take care of Greater Atlanta Christian, anything can happen from there.”

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