Chicago Cubs shortstop great Ernie Banks loved the game of baseball so much he popularized the call, "Let's play two (games)."
Harlem High School baseball coach Jimmie Lewis watches his team defeat Evans High School at the April 26 game in Evans. Harlem will advance to the next round in the state playoffs today against LaGrange after defeating the Crisp County Cougars in the second game of Friday night's doubleheader.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Going into Friday's final round of their best-of-three Class AAA state playoff series against Crisp County, Harlem High's Bulldogs would have balked at such a suggestion.
Their reluctance toward having to play a twin bill was understandable because they knew that if they could follow up their 5-2 Game 1 win Thursday with a Game 2 victory, they could go home early.
As it turned out, Harlem did have to take on the Cougars twice, dropping the opener 7-4 before rebounding to take the nightcap 13-2 and prove wrong the prediction veteran head coach Jimmie Lewis made after the lid lifter: "This next one's going to be a dogfight."
With their victory, the now 20-9 Bulldogs advance to the Sweet 16 round of state play and travel to Columbus, where Harlem plays second-ranked LaGrange in a best-of-three series starting today.
On winning Game 3 of the Crisp County series, Lewis said, "Getting five quick runs like we did (in the bottom of the first inning) took a lot of pressure off."
Lewis, presented with his 505th career win, added, "We had a good game, and that's about all I have to say."
All of the scores the visitors got in their initial at-bat in the final game were unearned, because the inning should have been over before anyone crossed home plate.
A throwing error led to the first run that Ryan Everett plated with a two-out, bases-loaded single. After Toree Scott blooped a two-run opposite-field single to left to make it 3-0, back-to-back walks forced in a fourth run, and Chris Day's single plated the fifth.
The Bulldogs struck for three more runs in the second that began with Cougar pitcher Colby Deal giving up two straight hits before yielding the pitching chores to Daniel Kimbrel.
A bunt single filled the bags and set the stage for run-scoring wild pitches that got two runs home.
A misplayed fly ball in center accounted for a third run as Harlem's lead grew to a commanding 8-0.
Crisp momentarily threatened to make a game of things when it scored twice in the top of the third.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Bryan Bush, who stroked an RBI hit to left. Another run scored on Corey Bryan's double-play bouncer.
In its half of the third, Harlem got those two runs back, plus three others, to pave the way for the 10-run mercy rule that would be invoked an inning later.
Rusty James, making only his second start of the season as the No. 3 man in the Bulldogs' pitching rotation, kept the Cougars off the scoreboard in the fourth to end the game.
"Rusty came in, did what he asked him to do - throw strikes - and wound up giving us a great performance," Harlem assistant Lonnie Morris said.
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