After starting the season with an 0-4 record, the Harlem Bulldogs could have shut down for the year.
After all, the baseball team was out-scored 49-2 in the four games and was on the wrong end of the mercy rule three times.
"I'm not going to lie, I was beginning to get worried," coach Jimmie Lewis said. "These guys could have folded."
Harlem's 0-4 start took the team to a humbling low, but the Bulldogs' three consecutive wins since have put Harlem baseball back on track.
In last weekend's Diamond Dog Day, the Bulldogs defeated Jefferson County and Oglethorpe County with a combined 16 runs.
Harlem would need that kind of offense for their next game, a sub-region showdown against cross-county rival Thomson. The contest was the first in a long line of Region 3N-AAA games that will determine Harlem's playoff destiny.
When the game started Tuesday at Thomson, that destiny didn't look promising.
"We stunk it up the first two or three innings," Lewis said.
Harlem's Evan Slagle hit a home run early in the game, but the Bulldogs trailed 10-4 entering the seventh inning.
With time running out, the rest of the Bulldog bats came alive.
Harlem right fielder Eric Schnitzler launched a three-run homer, and Slagle added two singles in the inning to complete Harlem's eight-run seventh inning for a 12-10 lead.
"To come back like we did was a big confidence booster," Lewis said. "I was real proud of the boys. That was a big sub-region game."
The drama wasn't over.
Thomson loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Still clinging to a two-run lead, Harlem found the necessary defense in an untested underclassman.
Catcher Aaron Rachels, a freshman filling in for an injured Alex Hintz, made the turn on a double play, then saved the game two batters later when the ball got away from him on a swinging third strike. Rachels recovered the ball, fired to first base and recorded the final out for the 12-10 win.
Harlem pitcher Michael Sanders (1-2) got the win in relief for the Bulldogs.
Slagle led Harlem with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate, including a home run.
With their first sub-region game in the win column, Harlem will travel to Cross Creek at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
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