The Greenbrier High School softball team experienced the best of both worlds last week at the Brierpatch.
With a big win Tuesday over Region 3-AAAA rival Lakeside High School, the Lady Wolfpack got a shot in the arm, and they also gave the Lady Panthers a kick in the britches.
Greenbrier pitcher Kristan Glover tossed a no-hitter and faced the minimum, and Lady Pack freshman Tiffany Blackburn maximized her production with a three-run double in the bottom of the first inning.
"I was just looking for the perfect pitch," said Blackburn, who actually ripped a tough offering from Lakeside starter Jori McMurtrey.
The 4-0 victory was a message to folks who thought Greenbrier's seven-year reign as region champions was old news in 2003.
"We're back on track. We never were off track," Lady Pack coach Garrett Black said. "We lose a few games here and there, and there's some rumblings. We're still Greenbrier, and we're still at 5114 Riverwood Parkway. We'll keep working hard, try to get better and see what happens."
Greenbrier's region dominance was halted earlier this season when Cross Creek posted a 1-0 win at the Brierpatch, giving the Lady Pack their first region loss in three years.
Lakeside, meanwhile, had beaten Cross Creek in two nonregion games this season, and the Lady Panthers were eager to saddle Greenbrier with another setback last week.
Those dreams were quickly demolished, as Glover worked a 1-2-3 top of the first, and Greenbrier struck for all four of its runs in the bottom half.
Lakeside committed an error on its initial defensive play. Glover followed with a single, and Ashlee LaFontaine drew a walk from McMurtrey.
Blackburn stepped to the plate and delivered, reaching out and crushing a curve to the opposite field and clearing the bases. Kayla Thurmond capped the early outburst with an RBI single.
"If we can stay away from that one bad inning, we're OK. Today, unfortunately, we didn't," Lakeside coach Jay Matthews said. "The girls felt like they didn't play well, but I was proud of how they hung in there. They could have very easily packed it in and stopped playing, but we played with Greenbrier toe-to-toe after the first inning."
Lakeside's defense recovered after the first inning. Third baseman Lauren Seaborn made several nice plays, and center fielder Ansley Evans' running grab robbed Kristi Nichols in the sixth.
Greenbrier responded with flawless play in the field, and Glover did the rest with a masterpiece on the mound. The junior missed throwing a perfect game when she came inside and hit Sam Wannamaker, but Glover's sister, Amanda, erased that mistake by starting a double play on McMurtrey's grounder.
"We're solid defensively, and Kristan knows that," Black said. "The kids out there believe in her and she believes in them."
Now, after three early-season losses sparked talk that the Greenbrier dynasty was dead, the Lady Pack is prepared to turn their Region 3-AAAA opponents into believers.
"A win is a win, but this one felt good because we looked like a team. Hopefully this is a turning point in our season," Glover said. "Our team is really starting to play well together, and everyone is pulling for one another. We're real close, and that kind of showed today."
There's still a lot of work to do before Greenbrier can claim an eighth straight region crown.
Cross Creek has shown that the Lady Pack is vulnerable, Lakeside is itching to knock Greenbrier off the throne, and Jones County is a definite challenger, as the Lady Greyhounds proved by winning the Evans Invitational last weekend at Patriots Park.
If Greenbrier wins its showdown at Jones County on Thursday, and if Lakeside comes through Tuesday at Cross Creek, the race for seedings in next month's Region 3-AAAA tournament could become a dead heat.
"The way it's shaping up, with Greenbrier dropping one to Cross Creek, if we play well in the rest of our region games, we could make this thing very interesting," Matthews said. "All the region games are really important for seeding in the region tournament, and the title will be decided there. The bottom line is we've got to win the rest of them, and then let someone else figure out the tiebreaker."
Over the past few seasons, the only thing to figure out in Region 3-AAAA was where Greenbrier was going to store its trophy, but this year the Lady Pack will have to work overtime to hoist more hardware.
"This is the toughest the region has been in the eight years I've been coaching softball at Greenbrier," Black said. "We know that if we don't show up with our 'A' game, the region's up for grabs. I think our kids are ready for the challenge."
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