For one inning of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA state semifinals, the Marist baseball team looked like the Bad News Bears. For the rest of the best-of-three playoff series against Greenbrier at the Brierpatch, the top-ranked War Eagles looked more like the 1927 New York Yankees.
In Friday's opener, Marist suffered a final-inning meltdown, as the Wolfpack capitalized on walks, hit batsmen and errors to score eight runs and pull off an improbable 12-11 victory.
Marist slugged three home runs and won 8-3 in the second game of Friday's doubleheader, and the War Eagles came back Monday to trounce the Pack 11-0 in five innings.
"I'd be more upset if I didn't know in my heart they were the better team," Greenbrier senior pitcher Nick Wandless after the Monday loss. "It seemed like everyone in their lineup could hit. It didn't matter where I was throwing it, they'd hit the ball."
It didn't take long for the deciding game to turn into the Memorial Day Massacre. Marist pitcher Josh Darby worked a 1-2-3 top of the first, and in the bottom half, Bryan Steed launched Wandless' first pitch over the fence in left.
"Everything just collapsed after that," Greenbrier coach Ed Williams said.
The Greenbrier players gather around their coach, Ed Williams, one last time after a season-ending blowout loss to Marist at the Brierpatch.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst
The War Eagles had collapsed Friday in Game 1. The War Eagles surged ahead 11-0 and were within one out of posting a mercy-rule victory. The Pack, however, posted three runs in the fifth, added another in the sixth, then tallied eight in the bottom of the seventh to steal the win.
That was the closest Greenbrier would get to advancing to the Class AAAA championship series. After solid play in Friday's second game, the War Eagles hit on all cylinders during the mercy-rule clincher on Monday.
"That first game, when they got us down, we thought we had a chance to come back," Wandless said. "Your luck kind of runs out when you get down by 11 runs. They just took it to us."
Marist now advances to play defending state champion Shaw in the Class AAAA finals in Columbus. Greenbrier finished its with a 26-8 record.
"Without a doubt, this series they were the better team," Williams said. "Our kids fought hard. They battled back in that first game to give us a chance. I'm proud of each and every one of our players because they had a great year. We just came up short."
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