Baylee Rollins didn't know how much playing time she would get Wednesday evening as Harlem High School opened the state softball playoffs at home with a doubleheader against Cairo.
In fact, there was no guarantee that she and several other junior varsity players brought up for the postseason would get into the game at all.
However, after the Bulldogs won Game 1, 8-0, and opened up a big lead in what would be a 16-1 Game 2 victory, Rollins got her shot.
In the third inning, the freshman replaced Tori Poss when the sophomore's spot came up in Harlem's lineup. Leading off the inning, she promptly delivered a hard-hit single through the left side of the Syrupmaids' infield.
"It's great. I'm excited, especially because I'm a freshman," Rollins said. "We have to work a little bit harder. We have to show what we can do. It's just great to get out here and get a chance."
When the Bulldogs batted around in the third inning, as they had done during a 10-run second inning, Rollins came up again for a second at-bat in the same inning.
Again, the freshman singled to finish Game 2 as one of only three Harlem players with multiple hits.
Her teammates recognized her big moment, cheering wildly as she reached first base for the second time.
"I'm new here. I moved here from Coffee County, which is about three hours away," Rollins said. "So it's really great to hear them cheer me on."
Harlem's more inexperienced players were able to get playing time in the Georgia High School Association first-round state playoff series after the team posted a sizeable lead. However, the result when several of them entered the game showed how much young talent the Bulldogs have.
After several substitutions entering the third inning, Harlem scored six runs.
The squad is already young, with only two seniors and two juniors. Those juniors -- Kristen Mills and Hadley Beggs -- contributed greatly to the series sweep in which both games ended early because of the mercy rule.
Both reached base in every plate appearance of both games. Mills punctuated the Bulldogs' effort in Game 1, scoring the eighth and final run with a long home run to left-center field in the fourth inning.
Mills finished the day 3 for 3 with five runs scored and walked three times. She also starred on the mound, striking out 10 batters and allowing just one unearned run while pitching both games.
"I didn't hit my spots like I should have," she said. "But I was still relaxed. Normally, I get uptight, but I was relaxed because of the scoreboard."
Meanwhile, Beggs was 4 for 5 -- reaching the fifth time on a fielder's choice -- with a double and three runs scored.
Beggs started the season catching, but has suffered through tendinitis in her rotator cuff. Unable to catch, she said she's trying to do her part at the plate to contribute.
"I'm not looking to hit any out," Beggs said. "I'm just trying to put it in play, get runners in. RBIs, that's how you win ball games."
The Bulldogs (23-8-2) now will prepare to face West Laurens (23-7-1). Harlem must hit the road for the second-round series, which begins Wednesday with a doubleheader. The teams would play a decisive third game Thursday if they split the first two.
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