A dominating performance by a freshman pitcher and big hits from one of the team's smallest players helped the Harlem Lady Bulldogs win its first-ever region championship Wednesday night.
In a doubleheader with Screven County to decide the Region 3-AA title, freshman pitcher Amber Garrett (12-4) pitched a game-one five-inning no-hitter as the Lady Bulldogs won 10-0. She would pitch three more no-hit innings in game two, earning a save, as the Lady Bulldogs (24-6) won 4-2.
In three tournament appearances, she notched two wins and a save while allowing just two hits in 11 innings of work.
Coach Mike Leverett noted how far she has come.
"She came in as a freshman and has grown into a senior freshman," he said laughing.
In game two, second baseman Abbie Drake hit a clutch two-run triple that tied the game at two in the fifth inning and came around to score the eventual game-winning run on Lindsey Stokes' double.
With the title, the Lady Bulldogs now head to the Class AA Softball State Tournament as a No. 1 seed. They are guaranteed to play two series at home as long as they continue to win. They begin their run in the states Wednesday.
"This is what we cut out to do," said Leverett. "We said we were going to go try to win the region, so now we won the region...We get to play a No. 4 seed here at home (in the state playoffs) and it don't get no better than that."
Senior catcher Morgan Barton was perfect in two trips to the plate in game one while the Lady Bulldogs clubbed 14 hits, was overjoyed.
"It is unbelievable," she said. "This has been long overdue for our team, It feels amazing to finally get here."
The Lady Bulldogs scored a run in the second inning, three in the third and six in the fourth to make a winner of Garrett. Drake and Hannah Price went three for three with Price driving in three runs.
In the nightcap, Kristin Rawlins (12-3) picked up the win in four innings of work while striking out four. She allowed two runs on three hits in the first inning but settled down, allowing just two more base knocks.
Trailing 2-0 entering the fifth inning and having squandered scoring opportunites the previous two at-bats, Tori Poss and Christian Mullis led off with singles and moved up on a sacrifice by Haley Mays. Up stepped Drake who drilled a 2-2 pitch deep into the right-field corner for a triple to tie the game. Stokes and Garrett then delivered consecutive doubles for the 4-2 lead they would not relinquish.
"There were runners on and I knew I had to get them in," said Drake. "I was really excited and pumped up after that."