After experiencing little trouble against Harlem High School and Evans High School earlier this season, the Greenbrier High School baseball team had only Lakeside High School standing between it and a 3-0 record over Columbia County teams.
Although the Wolfpack made that accomplishment a reality Friday, Lakeside didn't go down without a fight.
"We were finally tested tonight. We knew we'd see a tight game sooner or later," Greenbrier right fielder Rafael Parks said.
Parks, a senior for the top-ranked Wolfpack, came up with what he called the biggest hit of his career in the second inning of their game at Lakeside. With two outs and the bases loaded, Parks came through with a clutch two-RBI hit to give Greenbrier an early 2-0 lead.
The Wolfpack plated one more run before Lakeside answered with three straight hits in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 3-2. Greenbrier's early advantage withstood, however, as sophomore Nolan Belcher took over on the pitcher's mound for starter Brandon Cumpton to earn a slim 3-2 victory.
Greenbrier's eight other opponents this season had lost by at least six runs. Wolfpack coach Ed Williams said the close game was no surprise because of the rivalry.
"Any time you have a rival they are going to be up to play," Williams said. "Lakeside was up to play us, and I think we were up to play them. Trey Dove threw a heck of a game."
Dove combined with Lakeside's J.C. Huffman to limit the Wolfpack to their lowest run total of the year. A controversial play at the plate would have given Greenbrier one more run, but as Wolfpack base runner Matt King charged home, he collided with Lakeside catcher Paul Miller.
King was called out, and the run was taken away.
"He has to make an attempt to avoid our catcher or make an attempt to slide instead of lowering his shoulder," Lakeside coach Jay Matthews said. "They will let incidental contact go, but the fact that he lowered the shoulder is what meant an out."
The play highlighted a night full of momentum swings and close calls. Though Lakeside gave Greenbrier its first close game of the season, Matthews said, the Panthers didn't go home fully satisfied.
"Most people would be happy we played the No. 1 team in the state close," he said. "But I've got 20 guys in that dugout who sure don't feel that way. Our team knows if we field the ball a little bit better we win this ball game."
Some costly Panthers fielding errors and a pair of base-running mistakes ultimately did Lakeside in. The Panthers couldn't recover, and lost their fourth straight region game a day later to Statesboro.
Greenbrier went on to face Effingham County on Saturday and came away with an 8-0 shutout win to improve to 9-0 overall this season and 4-0 in the region.
Evans split a pair of region games over the weekend with a 15-6 loss to Jones County, then notched a 6-4 win over Wayne County for an overall record of 7-4 and 2-2 in Region 2-AAAA play.
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