Originally created 04/21/00

Harlem advances to Region 3-AA finals



HARLEM -- For the second straight year, Jefferson County gave Harlem fits in the Region 3-AA playoffs.

But for the second straight year, the Bulldogs will advance to the state playoffs.

With timely hitting, pitching and defense, Harlem pulled out a 6-3 win over Jefferson County on Thursday. The Bulldogs now will travel to play Swainsboro, an 11-10 winner over Hancock Central, for the region championship Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

"You've got to give Jefferson County a lot of credit," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "A normal team led by an average coach just folds in the tent, comes up here and gets beat and gets it over. They came up here with a lot of momentum, and it was a heck of a battle."

Jefferson County (18-8) was dealt a bad blow when senior pitcher Craig Norton was lost for the year after an accident during pregame warmups recently. Jefferson County coach Mark Ethridge said Norton's absence from the lineup hurt.

"We played on a lot of emotion,"he said. "It was tough on the kids, because it's like putting a puzzle together. If you don't have one piece, the puzzle doesn't work."

Harlem (20-8) scored three in the first inning and added another in the second.

The Warriors battled back as a Brandon James RBI single in the sixth pulled Jefferson County within 4-2. One of Harlem's three errors gave the Warriors another run.

In the bottom of the inning, Chuck Harrington and Justin Sheppard led off with a pair of walks. After a Jefferson County error advanced the runners, Clete Stewart ripped a single up the middle to give the Bulldogs a three-run lead.

Jefferson County made one last threat in the top of the seventh as Drew Wren reached on a walk with one out. Harlem second baseman Luis Scott made a diving catch of Kyle Amerson's liner up the middle, and Scott then nailed Wren off first to end the game.

"I was hoping he'd give us a ground ball so we could turn two, but coach Lewis didn't want us to because I had been getting hurt all day," Scott said. "I saw the guy jump off too far, and when I caught it I just turned and threw to first."

Johnny Dobbs pitched five innings and struck out five while allowing three hits to pick up the win for Harlem. Jefferson's Anthony Dukes struck out seven and allowed five hits in the loss.

In other region action, Hancock's Rico Williams hit a three-run homer in the fifth, leaving Swainsboro trailing 9-5.

The Tigers trailed by three entering the seventh inning, but leadoff hitter Rhett Womack walked and came around to score on a sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, Brandon Andrews hit a three-run double that gave Swainsboro an 11-10 lead.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.