Everything seems to be falling into place for the Greenbrier High School softball team.
Greenbrier High Schools
softball team celebrates after its wins Friday in the region tournament. The team now heads into the state championships Thursday against Madison County.
Photo by Mike Howell
With a three-game sweep during the Class AAAA state sectionals last week at Diamond Lakes Regional Park, the Lady Wolfpack will be one of the favorites to win it all at the Class AAAA state finals this week in Columbus.
In three other trips to the eight-team finals, Greenbrier has compiled an 0-6 record.
"I've gone to Columbus feeling good before," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "That's why the first game is so huge. We have to get over that hump. If we can do that, we'll have a chance. Then it's a matter of catching a break."
The Lady Wolfpack begins the state finals Thursday against Madison County. The double-elimination tournament continues through Saturday.
There are several reasons why Greenbrier appears primed for a breakthrough this year in Columbus.
Greenbrier's record so far this season is astounding - a 33-2 record, 28 shutouts, just nine runs allowed and a 22-game win streak heading into the finals.
In 2002, the Lady Pack already has beaten three of the other teams competing in the Class AAAA finals (Madison County, Hardaway and Jones County).
"We beat Hardaway (2-1 in the sectionals), and that's big, because all the talk is that Hardaway is one of the favorites," Black said.
Of the other four finalists - Heritage, Shaw, South Forsyth and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe - only Heritage has won a state softball championship.
Also, defending Class AAAA state champion Central Gwinnett has moved to Class AAAAA this season, as has Oconee County, the 2001 state runners-up.
Then there's talent.
Sophomore pitcher Kristan Glover keeps getting better, and the Greenbrier defense has been nearly flawless behind her. In the field, freshmen Brittany Leverett (shortstop), Amanda Glover (second base) and Courtney McCladdie (center field) have followed the lead of seniors Katie Sutherland (right field) and Nikki Smith (third base).
Ashlee LaFontaine (catcher), Amy Rigdon (first base) and Natalie Pippin (left field) round out a stellar defense, sophomore Jenni Massingale would be the ace pitcher for most prep squads, and Meagan Borum provides additional senior leadership.
Chemistry also has been a key to success.
"We're like a family, and it's not just one person, it's the entire team," McCladdie said. "It's too hard to explain how I feel inside about putting on a Greenbrier uniform."
Team pride is nothing new at Greenbrier, but the Lady Pack's confidence definitely has risen to a new level.
"Attitude has so much to do with it," Smith said. "This year, everyone has it in their head that if we win the first ball game (in Columbus), we'll go all the way. We know we have the team, and this is the year we are going to show everybody we can."
With seven straight region crowns to their credit, the Lady Pack has dominated fast-pitch at the local level. Now Greenbrier is likely to earn their initial win at the state finals, and maybe a whole lot more.
"From a mental standpoint, I think we're ready," Black said. "This ball club's definitely got the makeup to compete for a state title. With all the good pitching we'll see, it could come down to one or two plays or a big hit."
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