When Harlem baseball player Eric Schnitzler began summer ball games almost a year ago, the soon-to-be senior could feel something was wrong.
"I was never comfortable," Schnitzler said. "I was trying to hit it too hard, and I got out in front of everything."
The result was an 0-for-7 start in summer ball for the usual heavy hitter. His traditional single-step batting stance wasn't working any more. After seeing Major League Baseball star Manny Ramirez bat, Schnitzler decided to alter his stance.
"I did everything the same with my hands, but I changed from the single-step to a double-step," he said. "Now I step back a little, then forward."
The slight change made all the difference. Through the rest of summer ball, Schnitzler batted better than .500 and hit two home runs. He hoped his success would carry over to the rest of the team and help the Bulldogs in starting the 2005-06 season on the winning path. It didn't work out that way.
Harlem got hammered in its first four games of the season, including double-digit losses to Columbia County rivals Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans. Only a few games into the season, spirits were down on the Bulldog bench.
"I didn't think we'd struggle as bad as we did," Schnitzler said. "Coach Lewis helped us. He talked us through it, and told us those games don't really count. The region games are what counts."
The Bulldog boys took coach Jimmie Lewis' words to heart. Harlem stopped the downward spiral March 14, midway through its first region game of the season at Thomson.
"We were down 10-4 and we scored eight runs in the last inning to win," Schnitzler said. "Before that game, we couldn't score any runs. Ever since then we have a bunch of confidence."
Schnitzler sparked the rally in the final inning with his second home run of the season. Since that come-from-behind win, the Bulldogs have won all four region contests and went into spring break two games atop the Region 3N-AAA standings.
Lewis said Schnitzler has played a big role in the team's turnaround.
"We're counting on him. He's one of our four seniors who's going to carry us," Lewis said. "He's batting .400 easy and hasn't done too bad for us in the outfield."
Schnitzler and the Bulldogs will face Cross Creek in a home game Friday before their rematch against Greenbrier on Monday.
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