FRENCH SETTLEMENT -- Oakdale simply bunted its way to a win over French Settlement in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs on Saturday.

The No. 17-seeded Lady Warriors put down four straight bunts and scored the winning run on an error in the top of the 9th inning for a 3-2 victory over the No. 16 Lady Lions.

"They've done well covering bunts until that moment," FSHS coach Susan Covington said. "We've always had one inning that hurt us all season long, and unfortunately it had to be that inning."

With the score tied 2-2, Oakdale's McKenzie Richmond reached to lead off the top of the 9th inning when her shot back to pitcher Britney Melton was mishandled for an error. Ashton Gilley laid down a sacrifice bunt to move courtesy runner Sara Dixon over.

"It's kind of hard because when you make the first error, it's trying to help your team get back, and then you just can't help what happens," Melton said. "You've just got to keep your head up and keep trying."

Marley Gilley followed with another bunt and beat the throw to first to put runners on the corners. Cheyenne Fruge dropped down another bunt to third, and French Settlement second baseman Carley Reddy was unable to make the catch at first, allowing Dixon to score the game-winning run.

Skylar Chambley's bunt single loaded the bases, but the Lady Lions got out of the inning when Marley Gilley was thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice and Darien Phillips flied out to end the inning.

"To be honest with you, we are not a bunting team," Oakdale coach Alycia McDaniel said. "We've never been a small-ball team. (Saturday), I just decided that the hitting part for us, when they changed pitchers, we were getting under the ball, popping up, and I told the girls, I said, 'Look, we practice it, and I know we're not a small-ball because we're not very fast, but we're going to lay it down. If I ask you to bunt, don't look at me crazy. I want you to lay it down.'"

Oakdale retired the Lady Lions in order to end the game and French Settlement's season.

The game was a stalemate early as Oakdale starter Brianna Hargrove struck out eight of the first nine batters she faced. Hargrove struck out 14 while giving up three hits and walking two in a complete-game win.

"I think they were nervous," Covington said. "Once they got settled in, they did a little bit better, but they should have started that way."

Oakdale, meanwhile, stranded two runners in both the 2nd and 3rd innings.

French Settlement (12-18) snapped the scoreless tie in the bottom of the 4th inning when Payton Clouatre led off with a walk, and Jackie Crosby had a one-out bunt single to move the runners to first and third. But Clouatre took off from third and scored to give the Lady Lions a 1-0 lead.

"I just rounded and I was checking home plate to see if I could make them throw a throw to third, and I saw no one was there," Clouatre said. "I waited for the catcher to throw to the pitcher, and I went because no one was there."

Covington gave all the credit on the play to Clouatre.

"That's base running that you can't teach," Covington said. "I mean, that's got to come from the kid, and she does a great job. All of the time, she does a great job of just playing the defense."

Sarah Petite's sacrifice fly to center field scored another run before Bailey Karpinski grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

Oakdale came back in the top of the 5th as Ashton Gilley was hit by a pitch to lead off and consecutive one-out singles by Fruge and Chambley loaded the bases for Hargrove, who smacked a two-run single to knot the game at 2-2.

Hargrove moved to second base on the throw, but Chambley was thrown out at third. Lauren Holmes popped out to third to end the inning. 

Neither team got anything going as Melton retired the side on three pitches in the top of the 7th, and French Settlement stranded a runner in the bottom of the inning.

Oakdale stranded one in the top of the 8th, and French Settlement had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Hargrove got Clouatre to fly out to left and Reddy to ground out.

Melton gave up one run, two hits and struck out one in 4 innings of relief in the loss. Crosby gave up seven hits and struck out three in 5 innings as the FSHS starter.

"You know going into the playoffs anywhere from 14 to 19 (seed) always is very comparable in ability, and 16 and 17 should be about equal," Covington said. "This game proved it."

"I hate it for my seniors. You always hate that last game for your seniors, and for the rest of them too, because they have so much heart."

OAKDALE 3, FRENCH SETTLEMENT 2 (9)

Oakdale               000  020  001  --  3  9  0

FSHS                   000  200  000  --  2  3  4

Brianna Hargrove and Cheyenne Fruge; Jackie Crosby, Britney Melton (6) and Callie Reddy. W -- Hargrove. L -- Melton. Records: Oakdale 12-18, French Settlement 12-18.

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