Although it was still early in the high school baseball season, Harlem faced a crucial game when Region 3-AAA opponent Washington County paid a visit on Wednesday.
Harlem was coming off a poor showing against Jefferson County. During that 8-4 defeat Monday in Harlem, the Dogs committed six errors, and the loss dropped them to 2-2 in region play.
Just when it appeared Harlem's proud tradition was being tarnished, the Dogs pulled together and picked up a 9-8, extra-inning victory over Washington County.
"It was a tough one. We were lucky to win it, but we did what we had to do," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said.
The last time Harlem missed making the state playoffs was in 1990; with the Dogs off to a slow start in 2002, Harlem needed to whip Washington County in order to remain in the playoff hunt.
Harlem trailed 8-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Dogs rallied to tie it with runs in both the sixth and seventh.
Donny Demore started on the mound for Harlem, but gave way to reliever Ray Fulcher in the fifth inning. Demore returned to pitch the final two innings and earned the win when Harlem pushed a run across the plate in the bottom of the eighth.
"We've still got a tough road, but had we lost to Washington County, we probably wouldn't have had a prayer of making the playoffs," Lewis said. "That was big win. That should give us a little confidence, and that's what we need."
The Bulldogs (7-8 overall record, 3-2 in region play) will stand no worse than third in Region 3-AAA heading into Masters Week. Washington County, Westside, Cross Creek and Jefferson County also are bidding for one of the region's four state playoff berths.
With Harlem traveling to Westside on the Monday after Masters, the Dogs can't afford to take it easy during spring break.
"I'll probably give them off through Wednesday, and then we'll have three good days of practice," Lewis said.
While Harlem will have a short hiatus this week, the Greenbrier and Evans high school baseball teams will be in action.
Evans has a 7 p.m. home-game Monday vs. Stockbridge, and the Knights travel Wednesday to Riverdale for a 5:30 p.m. game. Greenbrier visits Cross Creek for a Tuesday doubleheader, with the first game starting at 1 p.m.
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