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Morgan softball gets off to an early start in the sectional tournament loss to Philo

Raiders face Harrison Central for their third straight district berth

McCONNELSVILLE – Between a burst of offense and another stellar performance from ace Malayni Clemens, host Morgan left little doubt Wednesday about visiting Philo.

Considering the history between the neighboring rivals, it was quite a change of pace.

The Raiders scored three runs in the first inning and blew the game open late on three Electric pitchers in a 14-0 final blow in five innings in a Division II game.

Morgan (15-4), the No. 3 seed, will now host Cadiz Harrison Central (16-10) on Friday at 5 p.m. for a berth in its third straight district semifinal. The Huskies defeated Wintersville Indian Creek 6-5 in their sectional match.

Here are some insights from the game:

More: Wednesday Roundup: West M destroys West Holmes in tournament action

More: Tuesday overview: ‘Wanger’ again saw action for Morgan baseball.

1. Another dominant day for Clemens

Clemens kept her team close in losses to Muskingum Valley League-Big School powers Sheridan and John Glenn on consecutive days until last week, and she carried that momentum into Wednesday by successfully preventing the Electrics bats from keeping the balls squared .

The Electrics failed to score a hit in four innings and reached base only twice on tied runs. Clemens struckout six as she and Allia Rush combined on a two-hitter.

“We came in expecting a slugfest,” Morgan coach Jeremy Keirns said. “Luckily it was Malayni’s turn and we were able to get the attack going and everything went smoothly.”

After pitching at least four innings over the past three days, Clemens will get some much-needed rest on Thursday before he is needed again in a must-win game.

“She will spend some time with the trainer, get some treatment and spend some time in the hot tub – with all the good things that come with that,” Keirns said. “We’ll be ready by Friday night.”

More: High School Baseball Drafts: See which area teams will play in their sectional tournaments

2. ‘Slugfest’ was never released

Wednesday’s loss was a far cry from their previous meeting, when the Raiders needed a Myka Augenstein RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning to salvage a 9-8 win.

Morgan blew a 6-0 lead in that meeting, one of the rare times in 2024 when Clemens wasn’t in full control. When the situation arose again on Wednesday – the Raiders led 6-0 in the third – Clemens slammed the door.

She allowed a walk to Karlee Southall to open the fourth. But catcher Blair Clawson caught a foul tip for a strikeout and in one motion fired a perfect throw to second base, setting up Southall for the steal.

It was emblematic of the Raiders’ dominance. They finished with 12 hits, including Clawson and Clemens among the lanky doubles. Chloe Baker, Clemens, Alivia Rush and Remi Keirns scored several hits.

“We’ve been down before and we’ll come back, but we just couldn’t come back from this,” Philo coach Michelle Moyer said. “I just didn’t feel like we were ready. Like I said to the players, sometimes these things happen and you don’t have answers for them. I wish we would have done that.”

Keirns said their history of long, drawn-out battles with Moyer’s teams over the years was a big reason he encouraged his team not to get complacent with the lead.

“We’ve been coaching against each other for seven years,” Keirns said of Moyer. “She came over in the third inning and I said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable at all.’ They are a team that can heat up and keep going. Until the final whistle it was all about the accelerator.”

Rush’s huge blast to left field in the bottom of the fourth showed the players were listening. It was the freshman’s second home run in three days, after also launching one against Crooksville on Monday.

“My first at-bat I hit one really far in the air, so I knew I was close,” Rush said. “I told myself I had to level up.”

3. Loss that typifies Philo’s up-and-down season

Moyer felt that the result of the previous meeting against the Raiders gave the players confidence that they could compete with them in the most important game of the season.

It was not foreign territory. Although the Electrics were mired in the first losing season of Moyer’s storied coaching career, they still managed wins against two of the MVL’s top teams in Tri-Valley and West Muskingum.

Wednesday offered a new opportunity.

“It happened to us all season long,” Moyer said. “They have it in their heads that John Glenn, Tri-Valley, whatever, are better than us. Then they see that they can play with them. So I think we had a little bit of confidence. After that, everything went downhill.”

Five seniors are leaving the Electrics program, including one of the MVL’s top power hitters in Caitlin Rose. Two second-year pitchers return in McGraw and Cassydi Himes, among others, and a number of talented underclassmen entering the program have provided optimism for growth.

She praised the work ethic of this group and said she was “super proud” of their resilience.

“Every game they kept their heads up,” Moyer said. “A lot of people discounted us. Did we have the record we wanted? I don’t think so. We won a lot of games that people didn’t think we would win.”

[email protected]; X: @SamBlackburnTR