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Lady Bulldogs coast through first round

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
April 17, 2001
MEADVILLE Speed kills, and in the end, that's exactly how the Clarkdale Lady Bulldogs killed Franklin County's bid to advance in the Class 1A/2A/3A Playoffs.
That, and perhaps a lack of quality depth on the mound for FCHS led to Clarkdale throttling its hosts, 19-4 and 12-4 in the First Round best-of-three series.
"We are not big hitters, but team speed is a big part of our game," Lady Bulldog head coach Rick Roberson said. "Speed is so big in this game and we are so blessed to have our share."
Clarkdale exhibited plenty of that early, as they jumped out with a pair of runs in the opening frame of the day, before pouring on five more for a 7-1 lead after two that served to put starter Emily Howard and the visiting Lady Bulldogs into cruise control mode. Nifty baserunning and sharp fielding were keys to winning the dogfight.
On the flip side, the host Lady Bulldogs (11-6) found a nagging weakness which finally came back to haunt them.
Pitcher Mandy McGehee, has carried Franklin County all season long, and last year as well with a valiant performance in the state tournament that saw her hurl some five games in a 24-hour span.
But Monday, McGehee simply didn't have enough, and when the arm strength left, so did the home teams' chances.
Things really got ugly in the top of the fifth inning when Franklin County coach Leigh Ann Mason pulled a tiring McGehee and inserted a pair of seldom-used pitchers. The result was a seven-run frame for Clarkdale that saw seven batters reach on walks to balloon the lead to the final margin.
"It seemed as if they conceded that first game to get the McGehee girl some rest for the second game," Roberson, whose bunch pounded out 11 hits, compared to five errors for Franklin County.
But between games, Roberson expressed his distaste for the current fast-pitch playoff format, in which teams are required to play a three-game series in one afternoon.
And with the backdrop of a hot afternoon, Roberson a good opportunity to get on the soapbox a bit.
"This is a big gripe I and a lot of coaches have with this playoff system having to play three games in one day," Roberson said. "It leads to poor quality of play. It's as if they just want to hurry up and get it over with. We wanted a best two-out of -three, but we wanted it like a baseball format, with two games on another day."
FCHS may have wished they had had another day as the Lady 'Dawgs came out strong, putting up three runs in the first two frames to bring the home crowd to life and begin thoughts of extending CHS to a third game.
But second game starter JorD'an Orr settled down and retired FCHS in order in the top of the third.
That set the tone for a bigfive-run third that allowed CHS to gain control and never look back, as Brandi and Morgan Wright singles. Orr then broke it open with a two-RBI single. Megan Potate reached on an infield error that plated a run before Howard blasted a ground-rule double and when the smoke cleared, the 5-3 lead was the beginning of the end.
After a scoreless inning and a half, CHS widened the gap, as Orr struck again with RBI single that brought in Morgan Wright. Howard then brought in Orr with an RBI double to push it to 7-3.
In the sixth, FCHS made it somewhat interesting by inching to within 7-4 with a a run-scoring single from second baseman Brittney Emfinger.
But the Lady Bulldogs erased any fleeting thoughts of a comeback when Bethany Spidle and Lindsey Stamm had RBI blasts to fuel a decisive five-hit, five-run frame that was aided by three gaffes from the home team.
Fittingly, Orr set down FCHS in order and Clarkdale advances to play the winner of St. Aloysius and Newton County. The series is set for Thursday at Clarkdale.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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