After winning the 2012 Region 3-AA softball title and advancing to the round of eight in the state playoffs, the goals for the 2013 Harlem High School softball team are to equal or better those accomplishments.
After Wednesday night’s dominating 11-0, 9-0 sweep of the Screven County Lady Gamecocks in the first round of the region tournament, the Lady Bulldogs advance to the region championship series.
As the region’s No. 1 seed, the Lady Bulldogs will play host to Westside on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in a doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m.
“I got a taste of something great last year and I want to do everything I can to help lead this team back to Columbus (Ga.), that’s the goal, but win region first,” said sophomore pitcher Amber Garrett.
The Lady Bulldogs (22-6) pounded out 15 hits in the two-game set, getting contributions throughout their lineup. The three runs they scored in the first inning of game one would be more than enough for the doubleheader with Garrett on the mound.
Garrett (16-5) pitched a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the teams’ only meeting this year on Sept. 5. In game one, Garrett again recorded 10 strikeouts, missing another no-hitter by allowing a two-out infield single in the fifth inning. In game two, she went four innings, surrendering two hits while striking out three.
Freshman Lillie Streets finished the doubleheader sweep, relieving Garrett in the fifth inning of game two.
“We played good defense tonight and behind Garrett she gives us a chance to win,” said coach Mike Leverett.
Perhaps the scariest thing for Lady Bulldogs opponents is that the Lady Gamecocks (8-14) chose to walk Harlem’s most dangerous hitter, Lindsey Stokes (.451), three times on 12 pitches. The Lady Gamecocks saw that strategy go awry as Stokes was brought in each time by those behind her in the lineup.
‘‘I told Lindsey just be patient. If you get on base every time, we’ve got girls to knock you in,” Leverett said. “I know she wants to hit, but I don’t want her chasing bad pitches.”
Stokes got pitches to hit in game two and responded with two RBI on a triple and single.
One of those helping provide the offensive spark was freshman first baseman Cassie Blizzard in her first postseason appearance. With the Lady Bulldogs up 3-0 in game one, she blasted a two-run double to left in the second inning and added a two-run single in the third. After a run-scoring double in game two, Blizzard finished the night 3-for-5 with five RBI.
“I haven’t been hitting the ball the best this season but I knew I had to hit it tonight so we could win,” Blizzard said.
In the first game, senior Christian Mullis singled twice and drove in three runs and junior Emily Aplin drove in a pair with a single.
Leading game two 2-0, the Lady Bulldogs broke it open with five runs in the third inning. Freshman Madison Summers’ single and Stokes’ triple leading off were the only hits of the inning as they used four walks and a hit-batsman to push runs across.
Aplin would drive in two more runs on a bases-loaded walk and a single.
Leverett is confident about what his team can do going forward.
“I think we can beat anybody,” Leverett said. “If we play good defense, we should be all right.”
Screven County 0
Screven County 0 0 0 0 0 X X – 0 0 01 2
Harlem 3 4 4 0 X X X –11 08 1
Taryn Burns, Faith Chase (2) and Victoria Winters; Amber Garrett and Kimber Hill. WP–Garrett (15-5) LP–Burns
2B–Cassie Blizzard (Harlem). Leading Hitters: Harlem-Blizzard 2-3 4 RBI, Christian Mullis 2-2 3 RBI.
Records: Screven County 8-13, 2-4 Region 3-AA; Harlem 21-6, 6-0.
Screven County 0
Harlem 2 0 5 0 2 X X – 09 07 2
Screven County 0 0 0 0 0 X X – 00 03 2
Amber Garrett, Lillie Streets (5) and Lexi Mays; Taryn Burns, Faith Chase (3), Rebekah Woods (3) and Haley Jackson. WP–Garrett (16-5) LP–Burns
3B-Lindsey Stokes (Harlem), Christian Mullis (Harlem). 2B–Cassie Blizzard (Harlem), Rebekah Woods (Screven County). Leading Hitters: Harlem-Lindsey Stokes 2-4 2 RBI; Screven County-Woods 2-3.
Records: Harlem 22-6, 7-0 Region 3-AA; Screven County 8-14, 2-5; Next: Harlem vs. Westside/Dublin winner, Region 3-AA Championship, Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 4:30 p.m.