Before his team took the field Tuesday at the Brierpatch, Garrett Black performed his normal ritual.
The Greenbrier High School softball coach turned his back on the Lady Wolfpack and strolled down the third-base line.
When he reached the outfield grass, he doffed his cap and appeared deep in thought.
"Before every game I say a little prayer," Black explained. "That's something I've always done, just a couple of minutes of quiet time before we get everything rolling."
Black's faith extends to his players and, once again, they didn't disappoint.
The Lady Pack rolled over Thomson High School 7-0. The win helped Black and the Greenbrier softball program reach 200 victories, and counting.
There wasn't any extra pressure, considering Greenbrier had never lost to Thomson in softball, and the win was never in doubt - the magic number "200" was painted behind home plate long before Lady Pack ace Kristan Glover delivered the opening pitch.
Greenbrier's players seemed unswayed by the potential milestone, and proceeded to perform their own ritual: ruling the diamond.
"We tried to go out there like it was business as usual, and the 200th win was just a bonus," senior catcher Ashlee LaFontaine said.
LaFontaine's RBI double in the first was all the support Glover needed. The junior pitcher threw a no-hitter and fanned 17 Lady Bulldogs. Glover earned her 59th victory to tie Abby Tyler's school record. Offensively, Kayla Adams and Kristi Nichols each had two hits to pace the Lady Pack.
The names have changed over the years, but the results have become very familiar. Greenbrier took the region crown in its inaugural season (1996), and the team has been atop the throne ever since.
Greenbrier pitcher Kristan Glover
follows through on a pitch during the second inning of the their game against Thomson.
Glover pitched a no-hitter and tied the school record for career wins in the 7-0 game.
Photos by Rob Carr
Seven straight region-title seasons, plus 18 wins this year, boosted Black to the 200 plateau at warp speed.
But Laura Paulos remembers when Black was an assistant at Lakeside in 1994, back when local squads still played slow-pitch softball.
"He didn't know anything about softball," said Paulos, who later played under Black on Greenbrier's first softball team.
Black wasn't totally out of his element. He learned how to coach from watching his father, Danny Black. Garrett also knew a few things about bats and balls; he played baseball at Evans High School and coached the Thomas Jefferson Academy baseball team to a state title in 1993.
When Greenbrier switched to fastpitch in 1997, Black found his comfort zone and began building a foundation for sustained softball success.
"He took us to camps and clinics and taught us the things he knew from baseball," Paulos said. "When we went to fastpitch, that knowledge paid off."
Paulos returned to the Brierpatch last week to witness the 200th win, as did former Lady Pack players Tyler, Eve Motlow and Heather Adams.
Every Greenbrier softball player, both past and present, set the stage for No. 200.
"We've had some good talent, I'm not going to lie," Black said. "I've been lucky to have a bunch of kids that have a passion for playing the game, and they're dedicated to softball."
That dedication starts at the top.
"He is very disciplined and focused on keeping things straight," Paulos said. "He was also like a father figure to all of us. We all respected him. We won for ourselves, but we also won for him."
Black loves to coach, but winning is his lifeblood. He runs a tight ship, and has been known to confront umpires on bad calls, all for the good of his girls.
"I am very competitive, and I guess sometimes the girls feed off my competitiveness," Black said. "It keeps me young, and that's why I like coaching. It gives me a shot in the arm of adrenalin."
Though Glover tied a school record and the program achieved a landmark, Tuesday's contest also spotlighted LaFontaine and Natalie Pippin, Greenbrier's two seniors.
Black offered some praise for the pair, but his speech was cut short. "It's hard to say how much you mean to me without choking up," was about all he could muster.
And like the win over Thomson, Black's emotional display was not unexpected.
"He's a very passionate coach, and we try to play with the same kind of passion," LaFontaine said.
Just call it a Pack mentality.
"One thing I get the most enjoyment from is just the relationships and family atmosphere these kids have created," Black said. "This has been like a family from the get-go. It's a lifetime bond when they play softball at Greenbrier."
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