Tuesday night, the Greenbrier Wolfpack proved they have the heart of champions.
Now they have the chance to go out and become one.
The Wolfpack battered the 2011 Class AAAA state runner-up Whitewater Wildcats with a 15-hit barrage, winning in a five-inning, mercy-rule shortened game, 15-5.
The win in the final of a three-game semifinal set sent the Wolfpack to the Class AAAA baseball state finals for the first time since they won it all in 2007.
“We’re pretty pumped,” said third baseman Knox Marchman. “We’re just ready to get to practice tomorrow and work hard to win the state championship.”
The Wolfpack will travel to Loganville High School Saturday night. The appearance in the title game is the first for fourth-year head coach Chris Wilkins, whose squad is now 30-3. It’s the first time a Wolfpack squad has won 30 games since their 2006 state title year when they were 33-1.
The game didn’t begin easy.
Christian Hill (7-1) started the game on the mound for the Wolfpack and allowed a single, walk and three-run homer in the top of the first inning. He would settle down, however, and allowed a total of five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts in the complete-game win.
So, down 3-0, the Wolfpack went to work in its first at-bat.
Hunter Boose reached on an error and Clint Hardy doubled him to third. Glover singled home Boose and Hardy scored on a throwing error. Two walks, an Adam Grice RBI single and a Marchman sac fly later, the Wolfpack led 4-3 and would not look back.
“This group has done such a good job of answering the bell,” said Wilkins. “It’s like a Rocky Balboa fight. He gets knocked around a little bit but he keeps answering the bell and that’s kind of the way this group has been all year.”
The Wildcats (26-9) didn’t help their own cause, committing six errors, thanks in part to the Wolfpack’s aggressiveness on the basepaths.
In the second, Boose singled and went to third on a single to left by Hardy. The throw to third was bad and Boose scored as Hardy advanced to third. Glover followed with a sac fly and the lead grew to 6-3.
“We just kept the pressure on,” said Wilkins. “That’s the kind of team right there that will fight you to the death.”
The Wildcats responded with two runs in the top of the third to cut the lead to 6-5. The Wolfpack added three in the bottom of the inning, however, plated two more in the fourth and finished it off with four in the fifth.
“We had to score, they’re a good hitting team.” said Glover, who went 2 for 3 with three RBI. “We came out with our back to the wall and answered the call.”
Solid from the top to bottom of the lineup, all but two Wolfpack batters got a hit and all but one scored. Marchman was perfect in three trips to the plate and drove in three runs, Boose and Grice were 2 for 4 and Hardy had three hits in four at-bats.
Wilkins was optimistic about his team’s chances in the final round.
”We’ve got a chance,” he said. “I know this. I can’t guarantee victory, but I know that our kids will fight and they’re going to fight you hard. If you beat us, you’re going to be better than us.”