SYLVANIA, Ga. -- Pitching, defense and Clete Stewart's feet sent Harlem back to the Class AA state semifinals.
Johnny Dobbs pitched a three-hitter, and Stewart scored from second on a two-out Screven County error in the bottom of the sixth as No. 8 Harlem defeated the No. 1-ranked Gamecocks 1-0 in the deciding Game 3 of their quarterfinal series Saturday at Cail Field.
With the win, Harlem (24-10) will play host to Eastside on either Thursday or Friday with the time yet to be determined.
"That's why I like this game," said Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis, whose team won the coin toss and played as the home team. "You don't necessarily have to hit to win."
Dobbs and Game 1 starter Macay McBride were locked in a scoreless battle until two outs in the sixth. On a 3-2 count, Stewart took ball four. A wild pitch moved Stewart to second. Then a Screven County (28-5) miscue came back to haunt the Gamecocks.
Stewart took off for third, and catcher Tyler McCabe's throw got away from third baseman Lee Smoak, allowing Stewart to score the game's only run.
"I already had my lead, and then coach gave me the sign to steal," Stewart said. "I went, and I thought they were going to get me. Luckily, he made a bad throw, and I was able to score."
Dobbs retired the final three Screven County batters on a pair of grounders and a fly out in foul territory to end the game. The Harlem right-hander struck out three and walked none.
In a game where both sides made huge defensive plays, Dobbs made the one that kept the Gamecocks off the board.
Lee Beard and Dallas LeMaster led off the fourth with a pair of singles and went to second and third on a Donald Sheppard sacrifice bunt. With one out, Allen Daly fouled off an attempted squeeze bunt. Then, Daly tried the squeeze again but popped the pitch to Dobbs, who doubled Beard off third to end the inning.
"We knew the suicide was coming, and I threw the curve ball and he popped it up," Dobbs said. "We practice that."
Harlem had a pair of runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the fifth. McBride, though, came back to get Brian Newman on a liner to short and Bob Hatcher on a groundout to first.
McBride pitched seven innings in Game 1 on Friday and came back to strike out seven while allowing three hits.
"McBride deserves all the credit in the world," Lewis said. "That young man's got a future. He's one unbelievable pitcher."
While the loss closes the book on Screven County, coach J. T. Pollock said it was a great season.
"It's been an excellent year," he said. "I'll take 28 wins any year."
As for Harlem, Lewis believes things are starting to come together.
"Before the Harris County series, I told 'em we're going to take a blue-collar approach," Lewis said. "I think those two one-run games pulled us together. I didn't think we were going to get to this point. There's no telling what this crowd can do now, because they're together, jelling at the right time and playing with confidence."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.
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