Today's column is part two of Ashley Brown's comparison of the 2006 Greenbrier baseball team among the best high school baseball teams in the history of the county. Sunday's column featured highlights from the 1974 Harlem Bulldogs, 1988 Evans Knights, 1989 Evans Knights, 1994 Evans Knights and the 1997 Greenbrier Wolfpack.
After extensive research, here are my rankings of the all-time top high school baseball teams in Columbia County. Keep in mind we had some great teams that did not win state titles.
Harlem had great teams throughout the 1970s and Evans in the '80s and '90s, especially 1985. Also, Lakeside in 1994 and several Greenbrier teams have been solid, but here are the 15 state champions in descending order.
No. 15 - 1979 Harlem
This team was not expected to do much. At one point they had a record of 6-7, but they got hot at the right time and finished 20-7 and won the Class A crown.
No. 14 - 1982 Harlem
Team featured a large group of underclassmen but they managed a 27-5 record and won state crown No. 3 for Jimmie Lewis.
No. 13 - 1986 Harlem
Said to not have as much talent as the other Harlem title teams, the '86 Dogs went 24-4 led by Bruce Lampkin and Anthony Brown (8-0) on the mound.
No. 12 - Harlem 1983
Did not have as good a record as the 1982 squad but did feature six players who hit better than .400 (Darryl James, Barry Luke, Kevin Green, Keith Morrison, Steve Crutchfield, and Bruce Lampkin). Lampkin, just a ninth-grader, hit .420 and was 8-1 on the mound, including both wins in the finals.
No. 11 - 1999 Greenbrier
The last of Terry Holder's eight titles. This team finished 29-5 with only four seniors on the team. It featured Chad Thornhill (UGA), Hampton Rowland (South Carolina), Bradley Key (Cincinnati Reds) and J.J. Johnson (Chicago Cubs). Also, No. 9 hitter Ryan Paquette displayed the team's depth by going 5-for-8 with three homers in the finals.
No. 10 - 1981 Harlem
This squad featured arguably the best hitter to ever play in the county in Mike Leverett. He hit .523 and was 7-1 on the mound. All nine starters hit better than .300, and they launched 17 post-season homers by six different hitters.
No. 9 - 1998 Greenbrier
Went 25-4 despite losing their three stars from 1997. Freshman Bradley Key and sophomore Jonathan Johnson were outstanding at the plate, and Hampton Rowland and Will Anderson were huge on the mound.
No. 8 - 1993 Evans
Loaded with talent, including Chris Hall (UGA). Plus eight other college players won the most dramatic game in county history on a Chris Halliday 17th-inning homer to knock off Sprayberry in Game 1 of the finals.
No. 7 - 1978 Harlem
Finished 24-3 and star Mike Ramsey played in the big leagues.
No. 6 - 1990 Evans
This team had a record of 31-3 and was ranked No. 12 in the nation. They hit an astonishing 46 home runs, and Chuck Lee won 14 games for this team. Along with Gene Carter who hit 16 homers, these boys may have been the most underrated players in county history. Also, Craig Combs closed his career by stealing home to win his third straight title.
No. 5 - 1994 Evans
Ten players off this team went on to play college ball.
No. 4 - 1974 Harlem
Bo Shanks was sensational on the mound. They were good from top to bottom.
No. 3 - 1997 Greenbrier
Ranked No. 20 in the nation and beat Hardaway, one of the best teams in recent Georgia history.
No. 2 - 1989 Evans
Hey, they were 30-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation... enough said.
No. 1 - 1988 Evans
Soon to be Greenbrier coach Rodney Holder agrees with me here. He played for three state title teams at Evans and was an assistant coach for two more at Greenbrier, so he has a great perspective.
"The '88 team had incredible mental toughness," Holder said. "They just did not let themselves lose. That was a special team."
Where does Greenbrier rank? Well, they are extremely deep and are approaching 40 homers already this season. Also, on the mound the 1-2 punch of Brandon Cumpton and Nolan Belcher have left opposing batters baffled all season. They are a combined 12-0 with an ERA under 1.
However, while you can claim all day that they have the most talent, they do not have something all of the above mentioned teams do: a state championship.
I'm sure the 'Pack coaches and players would agree that they should take care of business, and then they will likely assume a place among the county's all-time best.
The great Terry Holder, a coaching legend in high school baseball (and Rodney's father), put it best.
"It's not a coach's place to pick the teams, and I don't want to make any predictions. I know how good my Evans teams were and how hard they practiced and how hard they played. The fact that this Greenbrier team is being compared to the '88 team tells you how good they must be."
If this Greenbrier group keeps on track, they would definitely earn a spot in the top four.
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