Greenbrier's Sam Pitts steals third base under the glove of North Forsyth's Tim Reeves in the fourth inning of the state quarterfinal game at the Brierp
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Greenbrier went 101-36 in the past four baseball campaigns. The school won three straight region titles and advanced to three of the past four Class AAAA state semifinals.
Although many players have come and gone over this four year period, this astonishing success rate could be greatly attributed to the seven seniors that played their final high school game in a Memorial Day loss to Columbus.
Many of the seniors didn't play as freshmen, so they actually had a 78-21 record and won 79 percent of their games.
The only thing missing for this group - a state championship.
"We lost to the eventual state champs each of the first three seasons and we will see about Columbus this weekend," said head coach Ed Williams. "If we had to lose ... I guess it was best to lose to the best team in the state each year."
Greenbrier's largest loss in 2004, however, will be the graduation of its seven seniors: Jeremy Armstrong, A.J. Lavergne, Michael Newman, Brooks Robinson, Ryan Wallace, Sam Pitts and Scott Wandless.
"We expected so much out of them, and they reached every expectation and did a great job," said an emotional Williams. "They knew what was expected and surpassed it. They are really going to be missed."
Lavergne added, "It is going to be hard to let all these guys go. We were really close."
Greenbrier's Michael Newman pitched against North Forsyth in the quarterfinal game.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Behind the Plate
One of the strong points for the Wolfpack this year was the production of the pitching staff, specifically Newman, Wandless and rising senior Ben Dukes.
But none of this pitching success could have been achieved without Jeremy Armstrong behind the plate, Newman said.
"He blocks everything around him and calls such a great game," he said. "He is a vocal leader and knows when to calm down his pitchers."
Although he is outstanding defensively, Armstrong wasn't a slouch with the bat.
In the first round of the 2004 playoffs, Armstrong hit a two-run double and a solo home run in a defeat of Troup County, 6-2.
A.J. Levergne was Greenbrier's defensive standout, inserted usually in left field to shore up an athletic outfield with Wandless and rising senior Brad Ramsbotham.
"A.J. was the hardest worker on the team," Newman said. "He would do anything he could to help our team win."
Levergne was one of the most important pieces on the team even if it didn't show in the stat box, Williams said.
Michael Newman might have the nastiest arsenal of pitches that a prep athlete could possess. He has a fastball that runs in on hitters and an absolutely vicious split-finger that can be delivered from a multitude of angles.
He likes that label and doesn't mind being called a junk-ball pitcher.
"I definitely think it's a complement," Newman said. "It means I'm getting the job done."
Newman won 11 games this season, including a gutsy, 129-pitch win against North Forsyth in the state quarterfinals. He also hit a home run in the game.
Newman accrued the role of staff ace, and he parlayed it into a baseball scholarship at Georgia College and State University. He also hit better than .370 with four home runs as the team's ninth hitter.
Brooks Robinson amassed the role of a jack-of-all trades player for the Wolfpack.
In a playoff game against North Forsyth, he played third base, right field and first base. He also hit at an amazing .460 clip this season. Not too shabby for a quarterback e signed a football scholarship with Western Carolina earlier this year).
Although he signed as a football with the Catamounts, he will also compete on the diamond and head coach Todd Raleigh will be happy to hat his bat next spring after going 28-31 this year.
When asked to give one word to describe leadoff hitter Ryan Wallace, Newman replied with "scrappy."
Scrappy is the quintessential word to describe the short second baseman. Wallace set the table for the Wolfpack all season and allowed rising junior Chris Johnson to blossom as a hitter. As Wallace got on base, Johnson saw great pitches hitting in front Wandless.
Wallace also played stingy defense, rarely letting anything through the right side of the infield. Against Columbus, Wallace made a diving stab and flipped the ball to Johnson turning a crucial double play. Later in the game, he made a similar play and threw from his knees to get an out at first.
Sam Pitts was the newcomer.
All the other players had been part of the program for years. Pitts spent the 2003 fall semester at Augusta Christian before transferring to Greenbrier. Like Robinson, Pitts plans to play football in college.
The Furman signee showed that he was much more than a football player as he became the team's designated hitter. The lefty hit line drives to all parts of the field and provided pop near the bottom of a lineup that was potent all the way through the ninth hitter.
Scott Wandless put four years into the varsity program at Greenbrier and may have took it hardest when the Wolfpack lost this year to Columbus.
"I am just heartbroken," he said after the Memorial Day loss. "We get to this point every year and run into the state champs. It's just disappointing."
Wandless, who looks like Matt Damon and hits line drives like Todd Helton, doesn't have much to be disappointed about.
The USC-Aiken bound Wandless won 14 games as a pitcher in his final two seasons. As a senior, he hit around .500 and was among the area's leaders in triples and strikeouts as a pitcher.
He also came up big in playoff situations. His two-run triple against Columbus in Game 2 of the series almost willed the Wolfpack to victory over the nationally-ranked Blue Devils. He pitched a one-hitter against Hardaway in the 2003 playoffs and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Troup County this season.
Wandless also stands a chance of being drafted in this week's Major League Draft.
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