The Harlem High School Lady Bulldogs’ softball team jumped out to an 8-0 record this season after Wednesday’s 7-4 come-from-behind win at home against cross-county rival Evans.
Something Evans head coach Colette Cassedy said after the game struck a note. In her first reference, she said that Harlem has a good program.
There is a difference between a program and a team.
A good team can be a one-year wonder, but a good program is one that is consistently a winner or powerhouse. Names and faces may change but that constant of winning remains.
That’s where the Lady Bulldogs are now under coach Mike Leverett. And the Lady Bulldogs are the No. 1 ranked team in Georgia High School Association Class AA.
All-everything junior pitcher Amber Garrett was fighting some physical ailments in the summer and suffered a high-ankle sprain just before the Lady Bulldogs’ season-opening tournament.
I think it might have been the best thing that could have happened to the team.
Coming off their 32-4 campaign in which they were the Class AA state runners-up, the Lady Bulldogs had to begin the year with sophomore Lillie Streets on the mound and she’s been nothing less than perfect. It’s helped they’ve outscored their opponents by a whopping 80-9 margin, but Leverett has been impressed with his young hurler.
Now, Leverett can ease Garrett back into duty on the mound and feel confident splitting her time with Streets. When the end of the season comes and the region and state tournaments begin, Garrett will be that much fresher – and tougher – on the mound.
Wednesday night, Evans was hitting the ball hard in the early going but right at the Lady Bulldogs and they were making all the plays. Streets tied a career-high with five strikeouts against Evans, so she is letting the defense work and they are making the plays behind her.
In the sixth inning, Evans had the bases loaded and just one out and Harlem right fielder Bailey Sheppard made a play that may have saved the game. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was important. Jenna Cliatt blooped a ball to shallow right and Sheppard came racing in like she would make the catch.
When she realized she couldn’t, she pulled up, let the ball drop and fired to second base for a force out. Yes a run scored on the play, but there’s no telling how things turn out if Evans has that extra out to play with.
Did I mention the 80-9 scoring advantage?
The Lady Bulldogs are solid at No. 1-through- No. 9 in the order. They have speed and power and put both on display Wednesday night.
Yes, there is a long way left in the season and I have certainly gushed enough, but it could be another special season for the Lady Bulldogs.