By Brandon Speck/Daily Journal
RIDGELAND – One inning did enough damage to send Hatley home unhappy from the MHSAA Class 2A fastpitch championship series Saturday.
And it happened twice.
Clarkdale fought back from a one-game deficit with two straight wins in the best-of-three series at Freedom Ridge Park. The Lady Bulldogs won Game 2 5-3 and claimed the championship with a 2-0 victory.
“We put runners in scoring position and just couldn’t come through,” Hatley coach Chris George said.
Hatley, which lost in two games here two seasons ago in its first title appearance, loses five seniors – starters for George since their seventh-grade year, his first season with the program.
“You can’t replace them,” an emotional George said. “It’s going to be a whole new ballteam next year.”
Courtney Roberts’ double to open Game 2 summed it up. She was left at third against Abby Roberts, who improved to 14-3 with both wins. Clarkdale improved to 31-3.
The Lady Tigers, who won 3-2 on Friday, had only seven hits on Saturday, two in the third game. Leadoff hitter and sophomore Roberts had four.
Hatley (28-8) loaded the bases in the third but failed to score. Abby Cantrell walked to load the bases in the sixth with two outs but a hard hit liner from Taylor Richey went right to Abby Roberts.
Clarkdale scored twice in the first. Lindsey Beard singled and took second on an error to score on Sarah Harris’ single. Another run scored off an error.
“We’ve built the program from scratch,” said senior pitcher Lesley Hudson, fighting tears. “You can’t complain in a sense, but a ring would have still been nice.”
In the first inning of Game 2, Clarkdale had three singles and scored three runs, the first on Shana Elmore’s sac fly. Clarkdale added another in the second on Molly McLeod’s RBI double for a 4-0 lead.
Hudson, who closed a star career with a 24-3 year, sat down 12 in a row at one point before Clarkdale added an insurance run in the sixth.
Two errors led to two Hatley runs in the sixth and Cantrell had an RBI single.
“This group has been great. We’ve been competitive every year they’ve played for us,” George said. “They’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”