Heading into the heart of region play Thursday, the Harlem Lady Bulldogs softball team appears to be peaking at the right time.
Saturday at its Harlem Diamond Days, Amber Garrett and Kristin Rawlins took the mound and pitched two gems.
Facing Washington-Wilkes, the freshman Garrett (6-4) went first. She allowed just two hits while striking out eight in a complete-game effort as the Lady Bulldogs beat the Lady Tigers 8-0 in a mercy rule-shortened game.
The senior Rawlins (6-3) was almost as dominant in the second contest of the day against the Lady Bulldogs of Thomson. After Thomson struck for a run on two hits in the first inning, Rawlins was masterful the rest of the way. She finished with a complete-game three-hitter while striking out five in five innings as Harlem (12-7) downed Thomson 10-1, again in a mercy rule-shortened affair.
"Both of them have been throwing good the whole season," said Lady Bulldogs coach Mike Leverett.
While Washington=Wilkes and Thomson struggled in the field at times, the Lady Bulldogs were virtually flawless.
"The defense is getting better and stronger," said Leverett. "Usually three or four runs will win it for us right now."
Harlem proved that in the first game as they jumped on Washington-Wilkes for five first-inning runs. Rawlins provided the key hit, driving in two runs with a single.
"That's probably the best thing we did all weekend," said Rawlins. "It's been a while since we actually jumped on teams in the first inning. I think we play better with a cushion. It takes more pressure off pitchers and catchers when we have a lead in the first inning."
With Garrett pitching strong, the defense just had to make routine plays while the offense pecked away with single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Harlem's defense played a big role in the beginning of the Thomson game. Right fielder Haley Mays ran a long way to make a sliding catch for the second out of the inning. After Brianna Poss doubled in a run, the defense cut her down at third trying to take the extra base.
In the bottom half of the inning, Harlem scored two runs without a hit, capitalizing on an error, walk, wild pitch and an RBI groundout to score twice.
Garrett extended the lead to 3-1 in the third inning with her first career home run, one that hit the top of the fence and went over. She was limping after the doubleheader was over, the result of being hit by a pitch three times. Senior catcher Morgan Barton doubled home a run in the third inning as well and the Lady Bulldogs struck for six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning as they batted around.
In the two games, leadoff hitter Mays set the table with four hits in eight at-bats while Rawlins went three for five and drove in four runs.
"This is the best team I could ever ask for," said the senior Barton. "I feel we're going all the way. I have no doubt in my mind."