Originally created 05/12/00

Harlem bats lack luster



HARLEM, Ga. -- Jimmie Lewis used to believe he aged by the game. Now he's officially come to the conclusion that he ages by the inning.

In Harlem's first two rounds of the Class AA state baseball playoffs, the Bulldogs have won games by scores of 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 and 1-0. The sluggish run production has Lewis wondering what the scores of his semifinal series with Eastside will be. Game 1 and 2 of the best-of-three series begin at 4 p.m. today.

"I used to worry about the gray in my hair," Lewis said. "Now I'm worried about my hair falling out. I guess if our scores keep going down, the next game is going to be a 0-0 tie and we keep playing forever. But I'd like to see us break out (with some runs) for once."

The Bulldogs (24-10) will try to keep their nail-biting win streak available when they entertain Eastside, a team very similar to Harlem.

The Eagles (23-12), a school that opened its doors in the fall of 1995, have never advanced this deep in the state baseball playoffs. In fact, this is only the second season Eastside has made the postseason.

Offensively, the Eagles and Bulldogs nearly mirror each other. Harlem is batting .317 as a team, while Eastside is hitting .315.

However, the Eagles are more of a power-hitting team, belting 40 homers compared to just 21 for the Bulldogs.

The similarities end when you compare Eastside's pitching stats to Harlem's. The Bulldogs team ERA stands at 2.11 compared to 4.06 for the Eagles. Two of Harlem's ace pitchers, Clete Stewart (3-1, 0.22 ERA) and Johnny Dobbs (7-1, 1.11 ERA) boast ERAs under two runs per game. The Eagles' lowest ERA is junior right-hander Matt Cook, who maintains a 3-1 record and a 3.72 ERA.

The Eagles earned state-wide respect in the Region 8-AA playoffs when they lost to Class AA state power Gainesville in Game 1 of the best-of-three series then swept the Red Elephants in Gainesville to win the region title.

"A lot of people may look at our record and think we're not a very good team," said Eastside coach Dennis Jones. "Last year, we went to Villa Rica, and they put us out in the first round. This year, we've done a much better job of peaking at the right time and playing good baseball at the right time."

Jones says his team's strength rests in his pitching rotation. Right-hander Randy Allen is 8-2 on the mound with a 4.05 ERA and has recorded 87 strikeouts. Meanwhile, right-hander Jason Stokes is 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA.

"We haven't hit the ball as well as we have in the past," Jones said. "Last year, we had four or five games where he 10-run people. This year, I think we've had one. Our strength is definitely in our pitchers."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.