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FLORENCE — The playoffs are all about surviving and advancing.

That’s exactly what Clarkdale did, as the Bulldogs held off a late McLaurin rally to beat the Tigers 5-4 in Game 2 of their MHSAA First Round Class 3A playoff series at Mike Abel Field on Saturday afternoon.

Clarkdale (18-9) advance to face the Franklin County-St. Patrick winner in the second round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs next weekend.

“Felt like we had an answer everytime they responded,” said Clarkdale coach Scott Gibson. “Offensively we weren’t bad, we just didn’t see many fastballs today.”

Clarkdale scored first in the top of the first as Cal Culpepper scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

Culpepper, a Southern Miss commit, had a solo home run to right in the third to extend the Clarkdale lead to 2-0.

Colson Thompson later added a sacrifice fly in the third to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

McLaurin cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third on a bases loaded walk.

Clarkdale extended the lead to 5-1 on a two-run double by Jake Williams in the top of the seventh.

“Was able to get the fastball and get the barrel on it,” Culpepper said. “Offensively we didn’t hit great but we only struck out once. Coach said however you got to win just get it, and that’s what we did.”

Houston Wedgeworth (4-3), who started for the first time since Spring Break with a back injury, got the win on the mound lasting five innings, giving up three hits, one run, walked three and struck out four.

“The biggest thing for us is getting Houston back on the mound for the first time since Spring Break. He wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad,” Gibson said. “Survive and advance get to move on to next week.”

In the bottom of the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, Seth Cooper was hit by a pitch and then Ryan Owens followed with a two-run single to left for McLaurin to cut the Clarkdale lead to 5-4. 

But Clarkdale pitcher T.J. Gordon struck out Koby Phillips with the bases loaded to end the game. Cooper (2-4), who suffered a high ankle sprain on a base hit in the third inning, took the loss on the mound for the Tigers (10-11).

“Got down early and lost our ace pitcher cause of injury, but the kids kept fighting,” said McLaurin coach Jeff Walker. “Had the top of the lineup up with a chance to win it and came up short.”