Meridian Star

February 25, 2014

Clarkdale Bulldogs look to keep playoff string alive

By Austin Bishop / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Veteran Clarkdale High School head baseball coach Scott Gibson is hoping to use a little creative mathematics to find a way to get 11, five, and two to equal 14.

    "We lost 80 percent of all of our statistical categories from last year, but we have a lot of good young players and we are out to keep our streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances alive," Gibson said.

    So the equation comes down to this: The Bulldogs will be relying on 11 freshman, five sophomores and a combined two juniors and seniors to stretch that playoff streak to 14.

    "It's not like we weren't expecting this," Gibson said of the youth movement. "We knew it was coming. Our strength really is our youth and the enthusiasm those guys bring to the team. At the same time, we will be counting on our older players for leadership."

    The lone senior on the team is Levi Wedgworth, who will be counted on to do a yeoman's work on the mound.

    "We feel like when he goes to the mound we have a chance to win," Gibson said. "We are going to have to just jump on his back and ride him as far as we can."

    Left-hander Parker Chaney is expected to be the the No. 2 guy in the pitching rotation, while also hitting in the middle of the batting order. Sophomore Dawson Ivey logged several varsity innings on the mound and will be counted on to provide depth for the Bulldogs.

    The team's lone junior, Nick Perry, is expected to be the lead-off hitter for Clarkdale.

With the youth the Bulldogs will be counting on this year, Gibson said his team will have to heavily lean on the basics in order to win games and earn their third consecutive district championship.

    "We are going to have to be pretty sound defensively and strong fundamentally," he said. "We are going to throw strikes and make them hit the ball."

    He said this group of young players have a lot of experience playing together in junior high and should develop as they mature together.

    "The older guys we have are solid and these younger guys have a lot of potential," he said. "We are not only excited about the future, but this season as well."

    Clarkdale will compete in the same district with Scott Central, Lake, Newton, Union and Enterprise and will face a solid non-league schedule to open the season.

    "We are gong to use those games to really see where we are going into our district play," he said. "We are young now but by the time we get to the playoffs — if we make it — we will have a year of experience."

    The Bulldogs open the season in the Lauderdale County Tournament that is being played at Southeast Lauderdale this weekend. Clarkdale takes on SEL at 5 p.m. on Friday, while the Bulldogs face Northeast Lauderdale at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

    Clarkdale then has a three-game home stretch featuring Puckett, Forest and Southeast Lauderdale.