HARLEM, Ga. --- Timing can be a funny thing.
Thomson's softball team defeated Harlem twice earlier this season. Those wins, though, didn't count in the Region 3-AAA North standings because only one matchup between schools is designated as a region contest each season.
For Thomson, the timing wasn't right Thursday, as the visiting Bulldogs fell 12-7 to the home Bulldogs in the region contest after a comeback attempt fell short.
"Sometimes it gets in your head that, OK, I beat this team twice," said Brooke Herkel, who pitched a complete game and hit a three-run home run during a fifth-inning rally. "But you've got to realize that you can't let it get in your head. They're a good team, so they can always come back on you."
Thomson went up 1-0 right away, as leadoff hitter Hannah Wilson worked a long at-bat before crushing a home run to center field.
The lead wouldn't last.
After Jessica Coleman walked with the bases loaded to tie the game at 1, Harlem starting pitcher Kristen Mills came up to bat and promptly hit a grand slam over the left-field fence.
It produced an immediate turn of events after Mills had given up the long early home run.
"It felt really good," Mills said of the grand slam, only the third home run she has hit in three years at Harlem. "I'm going to be honest. The first inning when I went out there, first batter home run, that really put me down. But when I got my hit, it picked me and everyone else up."
Just as important as her big hit was Mills' pitching performance. She pitched a complete game in securing the victory, striking out 11.
Thomson added another solo home run from Jada Lawson in the third inning. Then, Harlem piled on in the fourth.
Haley Mays and Abbie Drake hit consecutive singles to lead off the inning, then Tori Poss reached when Herkel couldn't handle her sacrifice bunt.
Kristin Rawlins then reached when Thomson failed to get an out on her fielder's choice bunt, then Coleman hit an RBI single.
Mills kept the inning going by walking with the bases loaded for her fifth RBI of the game. Lindsey Stokes then secured an RBI on catcher's interference, again with the bases loaded. Finally, Hadley Beggs and Morgan Barton hit consecutive RBI singles.
When the dust settled in the fourth inning, Harlem had scored six runs to go ahead 11-2 and nine consecutive batters had reached base.
Thomson battled back in the fifth inning.
Herkel's three-run home run came after Wilson singled and Lawson walked. It brought Thomson within a six-run margin. The Bulldogs added two more runs, as Sharlette Farmer walked, Khadeja Fanning reached on an error, Farmer scored on Brianna Poss' fielder's choice, and Samantha Sims hit a RBI single.
Mills got stronger in the final two innings. She struck out the side in the sixth inning, then struck out two more batters to close it out in the seventh. Four of the final five outs came via the strikeout.
For Thomson, Lawson reached base in all four of her plate appearances, with a single and two walks to go along with her home run. Herkel and Wilson were both 2-for-3 with a home run.
Thomson coach Jason Osborn cited numerous free base runners -- who reached via walk, catcher's interference and error -- as one reason his team came up on the short end, though he credited the home team's effort.
"Harlem's a quality program and they've got a great coach," he said.