Jason Osborn stepped into a tough situation when he took over the Greenbrier baseball program.
First, he was coming to a school that expects to win championships. And why not? Greenbrier has won five state titles since their inaugural baseball season in 1997.
Secondly, he was taking over a team that had been to the state finals two years in a row, but was losing four First Team All-County performers, including 2013 County Player of the Year and four-year starter at catcher, Taylor Glover.
And, finally he was taking over after, what some think was a controversial firing of former head Coach Chris Wilkins.
Sounds like a tough task, but Osborn had one thing in his favor and in Columbia County, this one thing is huge. He had the backing and support of coaching legend Terry Holder. Osborn had served as an assistant for Holder when he came out of retirement to take over the Thomson baseball program, and took over the head coaching position at Thomson when Holder stepped down for good.
Holder started the Greenbrier program and won state titles in the school’s first three years of existence. He and the Greenbrier administration were now calling on Osborn to return Greenbrier to some of its old traditions, and if this season is any indication, Osborn was the right man for the job.
Most everyone had Evans as the heavy favorite in Region 2A-AAAAA. After graduating the last two county players of the year in successive seasons, and losing top pitcher Austin Robinson and Division I signee Clint Hardy from last year’s squad, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Pack. Many Greenbrier supporters were calling for patience with this young team, but thanks to stellar pitching and defense Greenbrier has dominated their Columbia County opposition and sport a perfect 8-0 record in region play and are ranked No. 2 in the State in Class AAAAA.
In their eight region wins (including three wins over Evans), they have outscored their opponents 43-5. If you throw in two wins over Harlem, they are 10-0 in Columbia County with a 67-10 scoring advantage. Overall, Greenbrier is 12-4, but three of those losses were by a total of four runs and the other came to always powerful Marist.
The question is: how are they doing it? They are hitting only .258 as a team and have only two batters (with at least 10 at bats) hitting over .292. Only Adam Sasser is putting up All-County type numbers offensively this season. The junior first baseman is hitting .325 (13 of 40) with 4 homers, 3 doubles, and 15 RBI this season. He also has an on base percentage of .440; he is slugging .700, which gives him an outstanding OBS of 1.140. He is a big reason the Pack have managed to score 100 runs on the season, but for a top tier team through 16 games, that is not exactly eye-popping.
So, how have they won nine of their last 10 contest? The old school way…pitching and defense. Greenbrier has allowed only five runs in eight region games, and has only yielded 36 runs all year, and only 28 of those were earned. That means they are allowing only 2.25 runs per game with a sizzling team ERA of 1.91.
The duo of Nick Sandlin (Jr.) and Connor Hogan (Soph.) have been lights out on the mound. Sandlin is 5-0 with an ERA of 1.35 and has beaten Evans three times. Hogan is also 5-0 with an equally impressive 1.36 ERA.
Also, Greenbrier has been one of the top defensive teams in the entire state this season. The Pack has committed only 13 errors all season in 432 chances for a team fielding percentage of .970. As a matter of fact, Greenbrier has not committed a single error in six of their last seven games and six of their eight region games. That is unheard of for high school ball and a huge improvement from a year ago.
By comparison, Evans is hitting .288 as a team (30 points higher than Greenbrier) and has three players hitting .400 or better. They also have a team ERA of 1.41 (0.50 lower than Greenbrier’s), and opposing batters are hitting just .180 versus the Knights pitching staff. However, Evans has made 27 errors defensively and is allowing one unearned run per game.
That has been a major reason Evans is 3-4 in region play.
Add to the pitching and defense a patient approach at the plate and a little team chemistry and you have a winning formula. And the Pack has been smart at the plate. They have walked 73 times and boast a solid .388 on base percentage.
Their on base percentage, pitching, and defense are the reason Greenbrier is ranked No. 2 in the state in a “rebuilding” year. Sure, the bats will have to come alive if they want to make another deep playoff run, but the Greenbrier fan base should be thrilled at the product that is being put on the field by Jason Osborn this season.