With only three seniors on the Harlem softball roster, the 2006 season certainly wasn't supposed to be perfect.
After the Lady Bulldogs' first 10 games, the future looked especially bleak with a 3-7 record. Since then, Harlem has won 15 of its past 18 games and kept its season alive last weekend with a strong showing in the Region 3-AAA Tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs took second place in the two-day tournament with wins over Burke County, Hephzibah and Richmond Hill. After their second loss of the day to Class AAA No. 1 South Effingham in the region championship game, the Lady Bulldogs earned a No. 2 seed for the state sectionals.
"I think if a few calls would have gone our way it could have been a different story," Harlem coach Melissa Chase said of the region title game. "No doubt they're a good team with a great pitcher."
South Effingham, the top seed from the south sub-region, went undefeated in the region tournament and knocked off Harlem 4-0 in the winner's bracket finals and then again 8-2 in the region championship game. Harlem is the only Class AAA school to have scored on the softball powerhouse this season.
"They're a good team - better than Greenbrier," Harlem junior Kacee Camp said. "It's possible (to beat them) now that we've seen them so many times, but they have a shutout pitcher."
That pitcher, junior Allison Kirkland, struck out 11 Lady Bulldog batters in five innings of work in the region championship game. Camp was the only Harlem batter to get a hit through the first five innings and finished 3-for-3 with two RBI and two stolen bases.
Chase said that type of offense will be necessary if the Lady Bulldogs expect a deep run in the state playoffs.
"Hitting is contagious for us, and if we start to hit and get some momentum going we'll be fine," she said. "State sectionals will be different because we'll see teams we haven't seen all year. It'll be more competitive."
Harlem will enter the Class AAA state sectionals as a No. 2 seed and play on Oct. 20-21 in Dublin, Ga. The Lady Bulldogs will begin the tournament with a first-round game against Class AAA No. 8 Shaw.
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