With the subregion standings set, pride and momentum were on the line for Columbia County’s high school baseball teams heading into Friday’s games.
At Lakeside, the Greenbrier Wolfpack closed out Region 2A-AAAAA play, keeping things rolling with a 7-1 win over the Panthers, improving to 13-3 overall, 8-1 region. The Wolfpack entered as the No. 1 team with the Panthers (12-7, 3-6) sitting in third.
In the process, the Wolfpack recorded its ninth win in 10 games, scoring seven or more runs in each.
On the mound, senior Clint Hardy (3-0) did the lion’s share of the heavy lifting, working six innings while allowing three hits and striking out five for the Wolfpack. All of the Panthers’ output came in the third inning as Hardy allowed three consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly.
“I thought he got stronger as the game went on,” said Wolfpack head coach Chris Wilkins.
Adam Grice worked a scoreless seventh in a non-save situation.
“We’ve got to put more than one run on the board if we expect to win a game,” said Panthers head coach Jay Matthews, whose team has lost four of its last five.
The top three batters in the Wolfpack lineup – Hardy, Connor Hoover and Taylor Glover – scored six of the seven runs, but the Wolfpack got contributions all through the lineup while belting out 11 hits.
Peyton Jones (2-2) took the loss for the Panthers in three innings of work, giving up six runs on seven hits with five walks and three strikeouts.
Walks hurt Jones in the third inning. Down 1-0 with two out and two on, he walked Knox Marchman to load the bases, Adam Grice delivered a single for an RBI, and Steven Maier walked to drive in the Wolfpack’s third run of the game.
Two walks and an RBI double to Glover ended Jones’ night starting the fourth. Lane Wallace came on and struck out the side, but not before Chris Michals singled home a run and Marchman doubled home a run to stretch the lead to 6-1. Grice ended the scoring with his second run-scoring single in the top of the sixth inning.
Wallace would finish the game allowing just one run while striking out five.
Both teams headed into spring break, and the Wolfpack will have two games and the Panthers one before the region tournament begins.
Wilkins wasn’t worried about the vacation slowing his team’s momentum.
“As hard as we grind, it’s good to get to it (spring break),” Wilkins said. “The players probably need some break from the coach, and the coach probably needs some break from the players. We’ll be able to give them time off to be kids but still play a couple of meaningful games at the end of it to get us right back into the swing.”
Jones thought the break came at the right time for his squad as well.
“Lately we’ve been struggling to put some runs on the board, and to just take a little time off from baseball sometimes can be the best thing,” said Matthews. “The weather warms up a little bit and we come back after the break our backs are going to be against the walls, and I think with as many seniors as we have that’s going to be a good thing. They’re going to have something to play for and they’re going to get after it. We’re going to be fine.”