Simply put, this year's Region 3-AAAA Tournament was the same as all the others.
Greenbrier, the team who has won every region tournament since 1996, did it again Wednesday afternoon with wins over Evans and Lakeside to claim the region crown.
However, the road to another region title wasn't as easy as it had been in past years for the Lady Wolfpack. As little as three weeks ago, Greenbrier's streak of 10 straight region championships looked in jeopardy.
The Lady Wolfpack entered the 2006 season with seven starters gone from last year's squad. After a win at Harlem two weeks ago didn't go quite as well as Greenbrier coach Garrett Black wanted, the veteran coach took drastic measures.
"After the Harlem game we felt like we were struggling," he said.
"To emphasize that tradition never graduates we pulled up home plate at our place. We all signed it and wrote what it means to play for Greenbrier softball."
The response Black got from his young roster was near perfect. The Lady Wolfpack have won six straight games since the late-season pep talk including the region title game over Lakeside on Wednesday.
Junior pitcher Kassie Bailey threw 14 innings of scoreless softball including 14 strikeouts in wins over Evans and Lakeside. Junior Sara Oland provided the necessary offense in the region finals with a game-breaking double in the fifth inning to score two runs and take the lead. Senior Robyn Butler added another run with an RBI single in the sixth inning.
The Lady Wolfpack were also aided by three Lakeside errors.
"We caught a few breaks today, but I've got to say Kassie Bailey really stepped up for us and Sara came through at the time we really needed her," Black said.
The region championship means more than just another trophy in the trophy case at Greenbrier. It also gives the Lady Wolfpack a No. 1 seed heading into the Class AAAA State South Sectionals in Hampton, Ga., next weekend. Although Greenbrier is no stranger to a top seed, Black said this year it's an even bigger advantage.
"It's very important this year because we're matched up with a tough region," Black said. "We've been up and down this year but the key is the last three games we've found a way to win."
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