HARLEM, Ga. --- Jimmie Lewis pulled an old baseball trick out of his hat when his Harlem Bulldogs played host to the Thomson Bulldogs in the season opener for both teams on Feb. 23.
With Thomson leading 8-7 following a dramatic solo home run over the left center field fence by senior designated hitter Cody Ewest, Lewis, the longtime head coach at Harlem, decided to steal home plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. And low and behold, the play worked to perfection. It thus knotted the game 8-8 and moved what was the winning run to third base.
It wasn't long before the winning run crossed the plate on a passed ball by the Thomson catcher. The play enabled Harlem to win 9-8.
This Thursday, the same two teams meet again on the diamond -- this time at the Thomson field. Again, the game promises to be an exciting one.
"It was a loss, no doubt, but the guys battled back and had a shot to win," remarked disappointed Thomson first year head coach Jason Osborn. "I think that says a lot about these guys. It would have been easy to have thrown in the towel when it was 7-2, but they didn't. We know how to compete, so to me the hard part is out of the way."
Coach Osborn vows that his Bulldogs will get better.
"We won't get too high and we won't get too low," he said. "We can use games like this as a stepping stone to our goal. As long as we all, as coaches and players, continue to get better and I know my guys are going to do that; we are going to be fine."
The Thomson team found out early that the Harlem team can hit and score runs quickly. In the first four innings, Harlem tagged Thomson starting sophomore pitcher Andy Grimaud for eight hits and pushed across seven runs.
Thomson, meanwhile, tallied a couple of runs in the top half of the first inning to go 2-0. Thomson's first two batters, Dontavis Brown and Grimaud both grounded out to Harlem first baseman Hunter Hamilton before Ewest lined a single into the left centerfield gap. Junior shortstop Nick Rau followed by blasting a two-run homer over the center field fence.
In the bottom of the first, Harlem tied the game with two runs. They erupted for four runs in the bottom of the second and added another one in the third.
Rau went into the game to pitch for Thomson after Harlem went up 7-2. He worked the remainder of the game, striking out seven batters, while giving up only three hits and two runs. Rau, who has never pitched on the varsity level, recorded a pair of strikeouts in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Still down 7-2 going into the top half of the fourth, Thomson scored three runs on three hits to cut the Harlem lead to 7-5. Harlem starting pitcher Derek Beasley was chased from the mound by the Thomson uprising. Thomson's three runs were scored by junior leftfielder Will Tankersley, sophomore catcher Austin Cooper and third baseman Cody Corbitt, who also made several nice defensive plays. The three hits were delivered by Tankerlsey, Grimaud and Ewest -- all singles.
In the fifth, Tankersley drilled a solo-homer over the centerfield fence to make it a one-run game, 7-6. Thomson later tied the game at 7-7 in the top of the seventh. After Rau and Tankerlsey became strikeout victims, junior right fielder Jesse Usry reached base when the Harlem right fielder dropped a high fly ball in windy, cold conditions. Usry later scored on a RBI single by Cooper. As a result, it sent the game into extra innings.
Thomson took the lead for only the second time in the game when Ewest launched a solo-homer out of the park in the top of the ninth inning.