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Key baseball games on tap tonight

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

If the state playoffs started today, Dutchtown would not be a part of it.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the playoffs are still two weeks away, and they still have a chance to make the 32-team Class AAAA field. Today's game at Griffin will go a long way in determining the Bulldogs' playoff fate.

Griffin is currently in third place in Region 4-AAAA with a 9-5 record. Jonesboro also owns a 9-5 record, but are in fourth place spot as a result of the Cardinals' 11-0 loss to Griffin Wednesday.

Dutchtown sits one spot out of the playoff picture in fifth place with an 8-6 record. If the Bulldogs defeat Griffin today on the road, and beat North Clayton Tuesday, they would own the No. 4 seed from the region. The Bulldogs defeated Griffin (6-2) and North Clayton (12-2 in six innings) earlier this season.

Since the month begin, Dutchtown has won six of its last nine games to put themselves into playoff position. Coach Michael Breedlove is pleased at how his young team has rebounded from a tough start of the season.

"We have had a lot of injuries, but to start out 3-10, and now we are 11-13 (overall) and 8-6 in the region, so our guys have fought hard," he said.

Jonesboro has also seen it early season misfortunes turn around for the better. The Cardinals are also a young club that at times play several freshmen in key positions.

After starting the season 1-4 with non-region games, the Cardinals have positioned themselves for the playoffs. Before Wednesday's loss to Griffin, Jonesboro's only losses in the region had come twice against Alcovy and Ola, a pair of state-ranked teams.

Jonesboro, which owns a one-game lead over Dutchtown, host North Clayton today on senior day and close the season Tuesday at Stockbridge.

The Cardinals beat North Clayton (13-1) and Stockbridge (11-1) in earlier contest.

Coach Raju Patel is confident his team can rebound from a poor showing against Griffin to end the season strong.

"We've got to regroup and stay focused," Patel said. "We've still got two more games. We're still in the playoff hunt."

Jonesboro is hoping to wake their bats back up in the last two games. Not much went right for the Cardinals, who threw ace Antonio Allen, in their loss to Griffin. Three times Jonesboro leadoff batter walked, but was left stranded.

Griffin pitcher Jeremy Holcomb recorded 11 strikeouts, and gave up only one hit, a third-inning single to freshman Cameron Sutton.

"We had a few things go wrong early, got our heads down and after that every little thing was happening for Griffin," Patel said.

Although the Cardinals had a easy go against North Clayton on April 2, Patel is taking nothing for granted.

"We've got a tough one against North Clayton," he said. "It's a rivalry. Those guys know each other. They play with each other all the time."

It's been four years since the Cardinals have reached the playoffs. Patel said his pregame speech will be simple.

"I'll say, 'Look up there guys. Its been a few years. It's time we get a number up there'," Patel said in reference to the board above the left-center field wall, which displays all the years the Cardinals have made the playoffs.