There were times during the 2002 baseball season when Harlem High School coach Jimmie Lewis had to be tempted to roll up a newspaper and dish out some punishment.
Lewis had some bad Dogs last year, and those young pups found ways to frustrate their master.
Harlem didn't have any seniors last season, and the inexperience was evident on the diamond - the Bulldogs averaged 5.5 errors per game.
The bad glove work took its toll, as Harlem finished with an 11-15 record, the worst mark Lewis has posted in 24 years as head coach.
What's worse, the Dogs missed the state playoffs for the first time since 1990.
"I figured last year we'd make the state playoffs, and we could have if we hadn't of made some bonehead mistakes," Lewis said.
Now, with the 2003 prep campaign set to begin on March 3, those failures are old news.
This year Lewis expects his squad to live up to Harlem's baseball slogan, "A Proud Tradition."
"We've got to prove to everybody that we're not nearly as bad as we showed last year," he said. "The kids have grown up. I think we can be a little bit better than we were last year. You never know, but I think we can be a state playoff contender this year.
"It's kind of like the Civil War. You aim and fire, then while you're reloading, the others are shooting back at you. Last season we were reloading and now we're ready to take some shots again."
Lewis saw some positive signs of improvement during summer league ball, and another plus is the Dogs will have some senior leadership this season.
Harlem's seniors are Kelvin Sturgis (center field), Matt Dobbs (second base), Chase Richardson (catcher/pitcher), Ray Fulcher (first base/pitcher), Cody Wilkerson (outfield) and Mike Hawkinberry (outfield).
Along with Richardson and Fulcher, the pitching staff features Donny Demore, Jordan Whitaker, Felix Chinea, Matt Lewis and southpaws Clayton Bruce and Carter Adams.
"We don't have any flame-throwers, but if you place the ball right and have a good breaking pitch, you can get batters out," Lewis said. "If a pitcher has the defense behind him, then he can win. I fully expect our error average to drop drastically. We were just young and scared last year."
Harlem's hitting last season also left a lot to be desired. Sturgis led the team with a .340 average; if the Dogs want to do some damage in Region 3-AAA, several players will have to top the .300 mark.
"I'm looking for some of these seniors to step it up at the plate," Lewis said. "If you hit, you'll play. If you struggle, you'll be on the bench, because we have some juniors and sophomores pushing for positions."
Some of the underclassman trying to break into the lineup are Jon Rickerson, Rusty James, Mike Morris, Chris Gamblin and Chris Day.
Harlem opens its season March 3 against Greenbrier, a Monday meeting which marks the first time the Bulldogs and Wolfpack have competed in baseball.
"It wouldn't hurt to start off with a win, but that's a tall order. Greenbrier's good," Lewis said. "Any time you win against Columbia County teams, you've got a pretty decent ball club."
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