ATLANTA - The Marist baseball diamond sports the most well-manicured grass this side of the Augusta National Golf Club, and considering the way Josh Darby teed off on the Greenbrier High School pitching staff, the comparison seems appropriate.
The left-handed senior single-handedly swatted the Wolfpack out of the Class AAAA state playoff quarterfinals Wednesday at Marist.
Darby was 4-for-4 in the opener of the best-of-three series, with a double, two homers and six RBIs. He launched a game-winning 3-run shot in the bottom of the seventh to give Marist a 7-6 victory and spark a two-game sweep by the War Eagles.
Pack pitcher Scott Wandless watched helplessly as Darby's blast disappeared over the right-field fence, then tossed his glove toward the Greenbrier dugout.
"If I felt there was anybody else on that bench that could have got Darby out, I would have put them out there," Wolfpack coach Ed Williams said of leaving Wandless on the mound. "(Darby) just had one of those days you dream about. We couldn't get him out."
Greenbrier's Scott Wandless scores just ahead of the tag
by Marist catcher Pete Creighton during the second game of the Class AAAA state quarterfinals in Atlanta.
Photo by Mike Howell
The clutch homer spoiled a spirited comeback by the Pack. Trailing 4-2 heading into the top of the seventh, Greenbrier rallied to take a 6-4 lead, with the big hit being a two-run double by freshman Rich Poythress.
Greenbrier came out swinging in game two, but Marist also abused the baseball, as the defending state champions pulled away for an 11-5 win to end the Pack's season.
"They've got a great team," Williams said. "If we can't win (state) I'd love to see them win it again."
Darby finished the day 6-for-6 with three homers, seven RBIs and three walks, and his first-game heroics gave Marist enough momentum to withstand Greenbrier's efforts in the nightcap.
"Our kids battled back in that first game, and we swung the bats well in the second game, but anytime you have a lead, and a kid hits a home run to win it, it's frustrating," Williams said.
Five Pack players recorded multiple-hit games during the series, including Jeremy Armstrong (2-for-4 in both games), Adrian McCladdie (2-for-4 in game one), Ben Tankersley (2-for-4 in game two), Wandless (2-for-4 in game two) and Poythress (3-for-4 in game two).
Greenbrier ended its season with a 24-8 record and a Region 3-AAAA title. The run ended in Atlanta for the team's three seniors - Adam Turner, Brian Johnson and Tankersley - but with a solid group of returning players, Williams believes 2003 was a sign of good things to come.
"When you have a young team like this, you need some leaders - Ben, Adam and Brian did that. I'm proud of what our kids accomplished this year," Williams said. "I hope this gives them a taste of it and makes them a little more hungry than what they are, and makes them want to work hard to get back here."
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