With Harlem High School and Thomson High School separated by less than 12 miles, a Harlem/Thomson game brings with it plenty of bragging rights.
In Thursday's baseball game between the two teams, there are more than bragging rights on the line.
The match-up will pit two of the top teams from subregion 3N-AAA. Harlem, which entered the week sporting a region record of 7-1, sits atop the region standings by just one game. Close behind is Thomson, which came into its Tuesday game against Glenn Hills with a 6-2 region record. The Thomson Bulldogs entered the week winners of eight of their past nine games.
"Hitting and defensively we've gotten a lot better," Thomson coach Terry Holder said. "I'm trying to get them to understand they can be just as good as the kids from Columbia County or Washington-Wilkes or wherever. We still have a long way to go to develop the program."
The match up won't be the first of the season between the two schools. Harlem beat Thomson on March 14 on the road in a game that saw Thomson lead 10-4 in the final inning.
Sparked by a three-run home run from senior Eric Schnitzler, Harlem rallied to score eight runs in the final inning for a 12-10 win.
"That first game was a fluke. We lucked up," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "It's going to be a dogfight between (Holder's) kids and mine."
Thursday's game will be the fourth in four days for Harlem. With only a one-game lead in the subregion standings, a win over Thomson would give Harlem a bigger cushion heading into a final double-header subregion match against Butler next week. Thomson sits in the same situation with region implications riding on the trip to Harlem.
"We've got to win, and Harlem's got to win," Holder said. "We're in a situation where we control our own playoff destiny. I just hope our kids don't get too satisfied."
The region implications aren't the only reason the game will be worth watching. Both teams' coaches, Holder for Thomson and Lewis for Harlem, have more than 500 career wins apiece and make up two of the three area coaches in the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.
"A lot of people try to build up the fact that it's Terry Holder and Jimmie Lewis," Holder said. "It's more about the kids."
At Harlem, Lewis agreed. Even with more than 1,000 wins between the two coaches, Lewis said neither one will be playing on Thursday.
"My players beat Thomson 12-10 the first game, and Terry and I didn't get a hit. I didn't even get to pitch," Lewis said. "It's my kids vs. his kids, and that's the way it is. The kids are going to do the winning."
The game is at Harlem at 5 p.m. Thursday.
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