Back in February and March, some people were saying 2003 was going to be a down year for the Greenbrier High School baseball team.
With the Wolfpack losing some big-time players over the past couple of years, including Chad Thornhill, J.J. Johnson, Bradley Key and Nick Wandless, many observers said Greenbrier coach Ed Williams was facing a struggle this season.
The Pack program had won three state titles and five region crowns, but that legacy was supposed to take a hit this year. At least that's what folks were saying.
Boy, were they wrong.
Thanks to the leadership of seniors Adam Turner (third baseman) and Ben Tankersley (second baseman), plus the all-around great play of outfielder-pitcher Scott Wandless, the Pack finds themselves in familiar territory - the state playoffs.
This afternoon, Greenbrier plays host to Hardaway in a second-round Class AAAA series. Today's doubleheader gets under way at 4 p.m. The third game of the best-of-three series, if necessary, is Thursday at 4 p.m.
Greenbrier (22-6) won its sixth region championship this season, and the Pack took the top spot in extremely tough Region 3-AAAA, besting the likes of Lakeside, Cross Creek, Jones County and Statesboro.
Traditionally, the Pack has been a power-hitting team, but things were different on the diamond this season. Greenbrier won with pitching, defense and timely hitting.
Don't get me wrong - although Greenbrier lacks home-run potential this year, the entire lineup is doing a great job at the plate by hitting for average, not power.
Tankersley, Turner and Wandless all are hitting over .450, while several other Pack players are above the .300 mark.
"In the past we've had guys hit 13 or 14 home runs, sometimes two or three guys in one year," Williams said. "This year we have a couple of kids with three (homers). This year we've had to bunt, hit and run, and do some different things, but it has been a lot of fun."
The Pack also has been powered by pitching depth and talented underclassman.
"Scott has been great (on the mound) for us, but we've really been pitching by committee," Williams said. "Michael Newman and Brooks Robinson have been good, and Ben Dukes has given us some solid innings. That depth has really been big.
"And, you know, we are a young team. We have only three seniors on the team, but we've had freshmen and sophomores step up all year."
One of those youngsters, freshman Rich Poythress, has really stepped up, according to Williams.
"I tell you, he's been good for us, not just in how he plays - he is mentally solid. He really knows the game."
Despite the success so far this season, Williams realizes his team will have its hands full with Hardaway, a perennial baseball power from Columbus.
"I saw them play against Ware County, and they're awfully good. They hit well, they play defense and they can pitch. They are just a solid team."
The same could be said for Greenbrier, although no one was saying that before the season opener this year.
The moral of the story is simple - don't doubt the Wolfpack!
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