By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Two innings into Saturday’s Class 2A second-round series, Clarkdale looked unstoppable.
However, it was all downhill from there as visiting East Webster shook off a 10-1 rout in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series to eliminate Clarkdale with 5-2 and 6-4 wins. The Wolverines advance to face host Enterprise for the South State championship Tuesday.
“We just got outplayed those last two games,” Clarkdale interim coach Britt Bennett said. “We had some terrific chances, but we didn’t get a big hit and they did.
“I’m still a firm believer that if you win Game 1, you have to win Game 2 because all the momentum shifts there, especially with high school kids.”
After the Wolverines scored in the top of the first after the first three hitters reached, Clarkdale answered back with authority. Back-to-back walks to Lauren Thrash and Heather Harwell got the Bulldogs started and Molly McLeod tied it with a single. After Shelby Blackwell reached on a fielder’s choice that loaded the bases, the Bulldogs went up 3-1 as two runners scored on a double-play ground out.
An inning later, Clarkdale put the game away. Taking advantage of three East Webster errors, the Bulldogs banged out six hits and scored seven times. McLeod doubled to drive in two and Blackwell, Sarah Wright and Anna Guin all added RBI singles. Alex Riser also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
“Yea, about three or four innings there and then we shut it down,” Bennett said. “We really didn’t hit the rest of the day.”
Indeed they didn’t. The Bulldogs managed only three hits the rest of Game 1 as they cruised to the lopsided win.
The missing offense, though, came back to bite the Bulldogs the next two games. Thrash, who didn’t see a single pitch in Clarkdale’s first-round sweep of Puckett, homered on the first pitch of Game 2 to give the Bulldogs another lead. It was short-lived.
The Wolverines tied it up with two outs in the home half as Autumn Frost singled and then scored on Mamie Hollenhead’s double.
Clarkdale again surged ahead in the fourth as Harwell drew a leadoff walk and scored on Blackwell’s hit two batters later. The Bulldogs got three singles in the inning to go along with the walk but managed just one run as baserunners were thrown out at third and home.
The missed opportunity proved costly. East Webster’s first three hitters reached in the bottom of the frame as Frost and Hollenhead each singled and then scored on back-to-back sacrifice flies. The Wolverines never trailed again. Frost, who went 3-for-3 in the game, homered in the sixth and East Webster added one more run in the frame.
In Game 3 with a trip to South State on the line, the Wolverines jumped on Clarkdale early. After scoring one run in the second, East Webster pulled away in the third. With one on and two out, Clarkdale walked Frost intentionally. Hollenhead delivered an RBI single. Following an intentional walk to Bailey Williams to load the bases, Kerrigan Clark cleared them with a double and the Wolverines led 5-0.
“We walked the three-hole hitter and the next girl hits a double and then we walk another one to get a force out and the next girls hits one off the wall,” Bennett said. “They just got it done and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line.
“The bats just went cold on us.”
Clarkdale certainly had its chances, though. The Bulldogs left the bases loaded in the second and third innings and Clarkdale did score twice in that third frame as Blackwell and Wright each had RBI singles.
However, no missed shot hurt worse than the fifth. Still down 5-2, Clarkdale loaded the bases with nobody out as McLeod singled, Blackwell walked and Kristen Mitchell reached on an error. The Bulldogs, though, managed just one run.
“We had bases loaded and nobody out and we got one run,” Bennett said. “Bases loaded and nobody out, you’ve got to get three or four right there.
“We just couldn’t put it together. The bottom line is we just got outplayed the last two games.”