HARLEM — In the third inning of the second game Wednesday, Taylor VanHouse hit a swinging bunt down the third-base line, a ball spinning like it was heading foul.
The ball landed just inside the white stripe, kicked right and remained fair, though. It was that type of day for the Lady Bulldogs.
Harlem, the defending Class AA champion, opened the state playoffs in style, sweeping Washington County, 18-0 and 19-1, in a pair of three-inning affairs.
“I’m glad to be a step closer to winning again,” senior outfielder Anasja Sanders said. “No matter how good or bad the opposing team is, you still have to play up because you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Lady Bulldogs extended their winning streak to nine and improved to 21-6. Harlem advances to the second round and will play host to Jeff Davis in the second round Wednesday. The Lady Bulldogs need one more series win to return to the Elite Eight in Columbus, Ga.
“We’re getting better every time we play,” Harlem coach Mike Leverett said. “Last year, we had a great ballclub. This team swings the bat a little bit better, but last year’s team played much better defense. But we’re working on defense.”
Skyler Wiggins, Harlem’s No. 1 pitcher and second-leading hitter behind Aleja Dorsey with a .515 batting average, played just one inning on the day. She struck out the first two batters in a perfect first frame in Game 1.
In the bottom of the inning, the first seven Lady Bulldogs reached as Harlem went on to score 10 runs.
Leverett played as many players as possible in both games, giving players like Sanders and Wiggins time to rest - 20 Harlem players participated in the nightcap. With Wiggins on the bench, Dixie Hill pitched three innings in the doubleheader, notching the Game 2 victory. Anna Burnett tossed two innings in the second contest.
“I didn’t want to throw Skyler that much this week,” Leverett said. “She’ll be ready for next week.”
Washington County (9-11) managed just two hits on the day. Lauren Hall ripped a single in the first contest, while Jacey Sims hit a bloop single in the third inning to break up the Game 2 no-hitter. Sims later came around to score Washington County’s lone run when Blair Thompson reached on a two-out error.