Although it was Harlem third baseman Lindsey Stokes’ birthday Wednesday, she handed out the presents.
In the Lady Bulldogs’ first game against East Laurens in the first round of the Region 3-AA Tournament, Stokes strode to the plate twice in the first inning. She hit a three-run homer in her first at-bat, then topped that with a grand slam the next time up. The Lady Bulldogs scored 14 runs in the first, going on to a 22-0 win in three innings.
“I haven’t had a game like that,” said Stokes.
By the end of the doubleheader, Stokes finished with three hits in five at-bats and nine RBI.
The Lady Bulldogs (22-7), the region’s No. 1 team, continued the bludgeoning in game two, shooting down the Falcons (7-15) 18-2 in another three-inning contest.
The Lady Bulldogs face Screven County at home at 4 p.m. Wednesday for the region championship. Screven County (13-11) advanced after downing Westside twice Wednesday.
In both games the Lady Bulldogs got to the Lady Falcons’ pitching staff early and often, finishing with 14 hits in each game.
“We hit the ball probably the best we have all year,” said Harlem coach Mike Leverett. “As long as we hit it like that, I know we have a chance to win.”
In game one, freshman pitcher Amber Garrett (11-4) had runners on second and third in the first inning before fanning the next two batters to end the threat. The Lady Bulldogs then proceeded to bat around twice.
“We got a little nervous, but I guess once we get past our first inning and get our bats going and getting on base, we don’t stop,” said senior second baseman Abbie Drake.
Garrett had little trouble after the first inning, allowing two hits and striking out four in just three innings of work.
Although Leverett substituted for the majority of his starters in the second inning, the Lady Bulldogs kept the pressure on, batting around once more and scoring eight runs.
In game two, the Lady Bulldogs were the visiting team and jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead. Haley Mays singled to start the inning, went to second on a passed ball and scored on Drake’s single. Stokes was safe on a fielder’s choice and one out later Garrett scored both with a single, coming home on catcher Morgan Barton’s double.
The Lady Falcons finally got on the board, getting to starter Kristin Rawlins for two first inning runs. Like game one, that would be all. Rawlins set the side down in order in the second inning and got three ground ball outs in the third.
The Lady Bulldogs struck for five more runs in the second inning, the big blow coming from Rawlins as she hit a bases-clearing double. She would add another double in the third and finished with four RBI.
The doubleheader win was important as it could set up the Lady Bulldogs for a deep run in the state tournament.
“We’ve got a shot at winning the region next week, here,” said Leverett. “We win that, then we’ve got home-field advantage throughout the state tournament.”