MARIETTA, Ga. — They were hoping for a state championship, but at least the seniors on the Greenbrier High School’s baseball team brought home their diplomas.
Eight Greenbrier seniors skipped their graduation ceremony Saturday morning in hopes of winning the state championship that eluded them in 2012. Pope High School swept the series, denying the Wolfpack a sixth state title.
Following Columbia County’s graduation ceremonies at the James Brown Arena, school board member Mike Sleeper and Greenbrier Principal Chris Segraves drove to Marietta and presented the seniors with their diplomas after the game in what Sleeper called an “ad hoc graduation ceremony.”
It might have somewhat eased the sting of a loss that Wolfpack coach called an example of life being “cruel.”
The Pope Greyhounds earned their first state championship since 2009 by rallying in Game 1, capping it off with a walk-off grand slam, and using a 13-run fourth inning in Game 2.
Pope sent 18 batters to the plate in its huge fourth inning in the second game.
Through the first 13 at-bats in the inning, the Greyhounds scored 10 runs and made just one out – and that was when a runner was thrown out at home. Patrick Wiseman, who started on the mound in the second game for Pope, had two doubles in the inning to bring in three of the runs.
In the first game, Greenbrier led 5-2 in the seventh and 7-5 in the eighth and still lost.
Pope scored 21 of the series’ next 24 runs after it trailed 7-5 in Game 1.
In the opening contest, a four-run fifth inning aided by a two-run double by Knox Marchman gave the Wolfpack a 5-1 lead.
Things got bizarre in the bottom of the seventh inning, which included two errors, a questionable hit batsman that led to an ejection of Wolfpack pitcher Adam Grice and a Greenbrier appeal held up by the umpires on a bad tag-up.
Wiseman’s two-out, two-run single and that second error helped knot the game at 5.
The Wolfpack appeared to be in good shape again, regrouping to get two more runs in the eighth on an error and a Connor Hoover RBI, but a runner was thrown out at home.
However, with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Greenbrier leading 7-5, the Greyhounds snatched the game away with stunning power. Mason Shiflett tied it at 7 with an RBI double before Nathaniel Lowe hit a game-winning, walk-off grand slam.
The moment bat met ball, Lowe knew it was gone; everyone knew it was gone.
A Pope team that had no extra-base hits all game suddenly had two from the final three batters, and the only hitter of those three to not record one was intentionally walked.
Later, thanks to the big fourth-inning in Game 2, the Greyhounds scored 26 runs in the sweep.
“We hit the ball all year. That’s what got us to where we were and to the finish,” Pope coach Jeff Rowland said. “It’s special. It’s been a crazy, crazy year, and to end it like this is a special feeling.”