As the old saying goes, “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”
Cedartown pitcher Reagan Clarke did just that last week as the sophomore pitched the game of a lifetime on Thursday, recording a seven-inning no-hitter in Cedartown’s final home game of the 2020 regular season.
The 3-0 win over Northwest Whitfield secured the No. 3 seed in Region 7-4A for the Lady Bulldogs, giving them a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs, which start next week.
Clarke was one walk away from a perfect game in Game 3 of a three-game series against the Lady Bruins, which came on a full-count in the top of the fifth inning. In seven innings, she tallied seven strikeouts.
Her best work came towards the end of the contest, as Clarke threw only seven pitches over the final two innings to record the last six outs. After the last out, which was a pop-up caught in shallow right field by Carlie Holland, Clarke jumped in the air before rushing to the dugout to celebrate with her teammates and coaches.
“Reagan Clarke pitched an outstanding game and I was so proud of her,” Cedartown coach Eddie Gambrell said after the win. “I was also very proud of the team as a whole. The energy that they brought, especially in the sixth inning, was key to winning that game.”
The Lady Bulldogs scored a run in the bottom of the first and two insurance runs in the sixth inning. Ava Allred was 2-for-2 with an RBI and Roslyn Blankenship was 2-for-3 with one run. Gambrell stated that his team’s mindset was different over the course of the series with Northwest Whitfield, which began with a split at Northwest Whitfield last Tuesday.
“We came in focused during Game 1, our bats just fell short in Game 2,” Gambrell. “But going into that final game, they had a different mindset and I’m hoping that mindset will carry over throughout the playoffs.”
In their first season in Region 7-4A, Cedartown (17-12, 11-7 7-4A) finished third in the standings behind state powers in region champion Heritage-Catoosa and runner-up Central-Carroll.
The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Druid Hills, the runner-up of Region 6-4A, in the first round of the playoffs. That series in DeKalb County will be played Oct. 19-20.
“Druid Hills is going to be a good test for us. When you get into the state playoffs you never take any team for granted because they’re there for a reason,” Gambrell said. “We are going to have to play our best to get the job done.”
Cedartown has now qualified for the state tournament for back-to-back seasons under Gambrell’s leadership. The squad will try to advance further in the state tournament this year, though, after losing two of three games at Flowery Branch last October.
“I just hope the girls take these next few days to rest up and get re-energized for the playoffs,” the second-year head coach said. “I’m so proud of them. You practice all these months for this time of the year.”
Game 1 against Northwest Whitfield went in favor of Cedartown as the Lady Bulldogs used a four-run fifth inning to take a 5-1 victory.
Clarke allowed one earned run on seven hits and four walks while striking out five in seven innings. Kaylee Nikolopoulus was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Blankenship finished 2-for-4. Allred and Holland each went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
The second game of the doubleheader saw Northwest Whitfield shut out Cedartown 7-0. CHS actually out-hit Northwest 10 hits to nine, but three defensive errors by Cedartown and numerous runners left in scoring position spelled doom for the Lady Bulldogs.
Nikolopoulus was 3-for-3 in Game 2, while Marycille Brumby and Allred finished 2-for-3 each. Taylor Westmoreland was 1-for-3 while Alexas Poole and Blankenship were both 1-for-4.