With seven seniors gone from last year's squad and not a single starter returning, most high school baseball coaches would be beside themselves with worry.
That's not the case at Harlem. Bulldog baseball coach Jimmie Lewis has been down this road before.
"It's our same goals as every year. Win the sub-region, win the region and win the state championship. Nothing's changing there," he said.
That's pretty much the only thing that hasn't changed at Harlem.
Only four seniors headline the Bulldog roster this year. Still, with all of last year's starters gone, Lewis said the process of figuring out the starting line-up won't be too hard. He's only got 11 varsity players.
"We've got 11 more on JV, and we'll bring some up from there from time to time," Lewis said, "but there won't be much decision-making with just 11."
Those 11 will face one of the toughest schedules Lewis said he's seen in a while. It all kicked off Monday when the Bulldogs started the season at Greenbrier with a 10-0 loss.
"Our schedule is murder right off the bat," Lewis said. "I don't shy away from a tough schedule now. My philosophy is you play a tough schedule and when region time comes you'll be ready."
The tough competition will help the young Harlem roster. Lewis said senior shortstop Kyle Knight and Evan Slagle should provide help on the offensive side. In the meantime, a large crew of potential pitchers will take the mound this spring.
Senior Eric Schnitzler, Mike Sanders and Rodney Scruggs will see time from the rubber this year along with a pair of left-handed hurlers in Steven Waters and Carlos Beard.
"I don't know who will be our No. 1 yet, but as long as we throw strikes we'll be OK," Lewis said.
Until the young Bulldogs get some experience under their belts, Lewis said Harlem will wear the underdog label. However, Lewis, who's won more than 500 games as a high school coach and five state championships, said the beauty of baseball is that you still have to play the game.
"Baseball is a crazy game. Anything can happen," he said. "We're considered the underdog, but you never know what's going to happen."
In the Bulldog's first two weeks of the season, they'll start at Greenbrier, play host to Lakeside, then return to the road for games against Westside and Evans.
This year's Diamond Dog Day is Saturday, March 11 with Thomson, Jefferson County and Oglethorpe County competing in the event.
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