The Harlem High School Lady Bulldogs would not be denied Wednesday night as they brought home their second-consecutive Region 3-AA softball title.
The Lady Bulldogs took advantage of Westside miscues and used two sparkling outings from pitcher Amber Garrett to beat the Lady Patriots 4-2 and 8-0.
The Lady Bulldogs lost seven starters from their 2012 title team, but that didn’t keep them from winning back-to-back titles for the first time since the 2001 and 2002 squads won Region 3-AAA championships.
“Everybody said that we were young and that it was a rebuilding season and this proved them all wrong,” said senior third baseman Lindsey Stokes. “I hate to say it that way, but we’re just as good as last year with being as young as we are, and we have talent.”
Garrett (18-5) is one of those talented pieces of the puzzle. She celebrated her 16th birthday in style, shutting the Lady Patriots down on two hits while striking out 10 in the first game, then throwing a one-hitter with six strikeouts in the finale.
Harlem committed two errors in the first game, but the mistakes didn’t come back to haunt them.
“You can make a couple of errors and still win with her (Garrett) pitching, but it’s going to get tougher,” said coach Mike Leverett, whose squad now has home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the 2013 Georgia High School Association State Softball playoffs as a No. 1 seed. The Lady Bulldogs begin the playoffs on Oct. 16, facing Region 1’s No. 4 team.
The Lady Bulldogs (24-6, 9-0 region) jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings in the first game with Garrett, a sophomore, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field in the first and sophomore Bailey Sheppard singling home a run in the second. The Lady Patriots (15-13-1, 5-3) committed four errors.
After being shut down for five innings, the Lady Patriots (15-13-1, 5-3) pushed two runs across the plate in the sixth and had a runner on third with two outs. Senior center fielder Christian Mullis made a sliding catch of Kelsey Powell’s liner to end the threat.
“I was worried,” said Garrett of the Lady Patriots’ rally. “I was really relieved when (Mullis) did that.”
Stokes singled in her first at-bat of the game before she was walked in her next four trips to the plate extending into the second inning of game two.
Walks were a problem for Westside pitcher Racheal Bonitatibus. After shutting down the Lady Bulldogs for the final four innings of game one, she struggled out of the gate in the nightcap, walking the first four batters, which the Lady Bulldogs turned into two runs. The Lady Bulldogs scored two in the second as Bonitatibus walked four more and added three in the third to break the game open.
Freshman Madison Summers and Stokes scored three times while freshman Cassie Blizzard singled in a run as well as driving in two with bases-loaded walks in the first and second innings.
Staked to a 7-0 lead, Garrett turned the lights out on the Lady Patriots.
“When we score runs I get more relaxed, I’m more confident,” Garrett said.
Heading into the state playoffs, the Lady Bulldogs are a confident bunch.
“I think we can go all the way,” said Mullis.