In his 39th season leading the Harlem baseball team, coach Jimmie Lewis pointed around the field at all the youth manning the corner infield and all three outfield positions.
With five sophomores in the lineup, the Bulldogs showed their resilience Monday night with a 2-1 season-opening victory at Evans.
Starter Blake Teston and reliever Ryan Smith combined to hold the Knights to just three hits. Smith forced three line drives to left field in the seventh to pick up the save.
"We played tough," Lewis said. "We got good pitching out of Blake. He's pretty good. And the little fellow who came in, Ryan Smith, did one heck of a job. I'm real proud of him."
Teston and Smith pitched around four errors, some of the mistakes routine. Lewis said some of the miscues are because most of his team saw their first varsity action Monday.
"That'll come with experience," said Lewis, who has just three returning starters. "We're just young."
Harlem jumped out front 1-0 in the second inning when Clay Decker lined a one-out shot toward shortstop Hunter Rachels, who was shielded by Harlem runner Noah Delagrange. Jackson Lonergan scored from third base on the play and the bases remained loaded. Then, Logan Gurley followed with a sacrifice fly to push the lead to two.
Evans got on the board in the third on an RBI single from Rachels. But the Knights failed to string two hits together and create any sort of rally after loading the bases with two outs in the first and failing to score.
"For six innings, we played solid," Knights coach Ricky Beale said. "We made two mistakes in the second inning. If we make those plays, it may be 1-0 or 1-1 and we might still be playing. You never know."
Evans threatened in the fifth inning. With the game-tying run at third, Jordan Ibarra lined a shot toward the gap between first and second. Teston, who switched to second base at the start of the inning when pitcher Ryan Smith entered the game, made a diving stop to keep Harlem up a run.
Ibarra pitched the first four innings for Evans, picking up the hard-luck loss. He and releiver Levin Lackey combined to allow six hits in the contest.