The Meridian Star
It's too bad Scott Gibson isn't playing cards, this season the Clarkdale baseball head coach is looking at four aces in his starting rotation.
Clarkdale has relied on its stable of pitchers, as the team has jumped out to an 11-2 record to start the season. Jonathan Porter, Chance McDonald, Levi Wedgeworth and Keaton Smith make up a quartet of hurlers who have only allowed 13 earned runs in as many games for the Bulldogs.
“We know all we have to do is score one or two runs, and we are home free,” Gibson said. “Our kids have that same mindset when one of our pitcher's is on the mound. It's not another option, we are going to win.”
The Bulldogs are led on the mound by Porter. The senior boasts a 6-0 record as well as a .38 earned run average. Porter is also among the state's leaders in strikeouts, punching out 65 batters in just 37 innings.
“He's just steady,” Gibson said of Porter. “He is dominant, and he has controlled every game he has pitched in. He's unbelievable, and it all comes down to him putting in the hard work over the years. He has really earned all this success.”
Bulldog players have now come to expect a win every time the 6-foot-2 righty steps on the mound. However, the high expectations have not hindered the star pitcher, as Porter said he feeds off of the confidence and believes he can beat anybody every time he takes to the hill.
A leader on the team, Porter is also quick to defer his success to his teammates, stating he could not put up the stellar numbers on his own.
“Things are going pretty well,” Porter said. “But, without the defense behind me, I wouldn't be able to have a low ERA like that. I have to give credit to the guys behind me.”
Perhaps, Clarkdale's biggest strength is its leadership. Porter, McDonald and Smith, as well as Blake Griffith, Dylan Reed and Todd Hughes, make up a core group of seniors who act as six additional coaches for the Bulldogs on the field.
“We have six great seniors who bring out the best in everybody,” Gibson said. “That's what it boils down to. They come from great families, they work hard on and off the field, and they just demand it out of the rest of their teammates.”
On top of motivating younger players on the team, Porter said the seniors also know what to do to pick up each other during hard times.
“We are like brothers,” Porter said. “We have been together so long. It's just a great chemistry out there.”
Tuesday, Clarkdale received even more encouragement, as the Bulldogs' bats came alive during a 10-0 win over district foe Puckett. Gibson said he hopes the bats will continue to stay hot as the weather begins to warm up. If that happens, Clarkdalecould become a serious contender for a state championship later this spring.
“I feel like if we can start swinging the bats well like we did last night, it's going to be hard to beat us,” Porter said. “With the pitching we have, one through four, all four of our starters, it's just hard to beat us.”
Last season, Clarkdale made it all the way to South State, where the team fell to 2A juggernaut Taylorsville. This year, the Bulldogs believe they have the needed experience to go even further and are anxious to get another shot at the Tartars if the two are paired up again.
“That's our main goal,” McDonald said. “We want to make it there and beat the best. We know what it takes. We made it far last year, and we know what it takes to make it even further this year.”