Greenbrier High School will face Whitewater High Monday in the Class AAAAA baseball semifinals. If this story sounds familiar, that’s because the same two teams met last season. A year ago, Greenbrier won the three-game series, advancing to play Loganville in the state championship series.
Whitewater is doing something similar to what Greenbrier did a decade before. In 1996-97, Greenbrier opened its doors and became a baseball power. Whitewater, in Fayetteville, Ga., opened in 2003 for freshmen, but began competing in the GHSA in sports during the 2006-07 school year.
Like Greenbrier, Whitewater has become a baseball power. The two schools took very different paths to become baseball powers. Greenbrier won three titles in their first three years of existence, led by legendary coach Terry Holder. For Whitewater, the process has been slow and steady. They only won four games in 2006, but got better each year. The last four seasons, the Wildcats have averaged 26 wins per year and made four consecutive Final Four appearances. Their résumé pales in comparison to Greenbrier, but there is no doubt they are a program to be reckoned with.
Just ask Gainesville. The Red Elephants were 27-3, ranked No.1 in Georgia, and in the Top 10 nationally before meeting Whitewater in the state quarterfinals. Two games, 29 strike-outs and six errors later, Gainesville was eliminated.
Whitewater took the first game 2-1 in 11 innings. Game 1 Starter Jake Lee struck out 11 and walked just one batter in seven innings of work. He was relieved by Cam Weselowski, who struck out seven. It did not get any easier for Gainesville in Game 2. Junior lefty Ethan Gillis pitched into the sixth inning, striking out nine as Whitewater won 4-3. The Wildcats had won 21 of 23.
The fact that Greenbrier is back in the Final Four is remarkable. Head coach Chris Wilkins lost several key members from last year’s 31-5 squad. Gone were First Team All County performers Hunter Boose and Spencer Duffie, in addition to County Player of the Year Jordan Hunt. Hunt is redshirting this season, Boose started at shortstop this season for Augusta State, and Duffie plays for a Division I Program at Mercer University. To lose that trio and be making another run at a state title is remarkable.
This season, the ’Pack stands at 22-7, but five of Greenbrier’s losses were one-run games. They lost only four in the regular season – and three were to teams outside Georgia.
Greenbrier has gone 6-1 in the state playoffs this year despite playing on the road in all three rounds.
Games 1 and 2: Monday, May 20
Game 3: Tuesday, May 21 (if necessary)
This should be a tremendous series. Hopefully Chris Wilkins’ “road warriors” can keep it going.