After a deep run in the Georgia High School Association Class AA state softball playoffs in 2012, the 22-6 Harlem High School Lady Bulldogs are primed to do the same this year.
I’ve seen them just a few times this season, and I don’t want to go overboard, but coach Mike Leverett seems to have all the pieces coming together when it matters most.
They got clutch hitting and played flawless defense for the most part Wednesday night when they swept Screven County by a combined 20-0 margin in the Region 3-AA tournament opener.
A win Wednesday against Westside, which swept Dublin, would give the Lady Bulldogs their second consecutive region championship and would ensure a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs. With that No. 1 seed, the Lady Bulldogs would have home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the state playoffs until the venue shifts to its central location in Columbus, Ga. from Thursday Oct. 31 to Saturday, Nov. 2.
That advantage shouldn’t be discounted. Doubleheaders are slated for Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Wednesday, Oct. 23 with “if” games on the ensuing Thursdays.
Not having to travel helps keep routines the same and is a significant plus. Not to mention the familiarity of playing in their beautiful complex with a rabid fan base for support.
Leverett doesn’t even mention what his hitters can do for the team until he’s talked about pitching and defense. I would do that as well if I had sophomore Amber Garrett (16-5), who no-hit Screven County in their first meeting of the year Sept. 5. Wednesday night she was one out away from doing the same when she fielded a slow dribbler down the first-base line. She appeared to have thrown the runner out at first but the umpire saw it differently, so she had to settle for a one-hitter and her sixth shutout of the year.
Leverett starts two seniors – Lindsey Stokes and Christian Mullis – three juniors and the rest are underclassmen. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Screven County with a blend of speed and power in both games. Stokes, the team’s most dangerous hitter, was walked three times on 12 pitches in the first game, but she made the Lady Gamecocks pay by scoring all three times.
With their speed, a walk or single is like a double as they have stolen 55 bases in 57 attempts this year. Freshman Madison Summers leads the team with 11 thefts, junior Ashley Lunz has 10 in 11 tries and Mullis is perfect with 10 steals.
Facing the Lady Patriots (14-12-1) won’t be a cakewalk, especially facing a team that enters with confidence having won six of their last seven, but the Lady Bullldogs beat them twice during the regular season and I look for the trend to continue.