When Greenbrier's softball team left for the Class AAAA state sectionals last weekend, the team took some unknown freshmen as secret weapons. However, it was a well-known face that ultimately saved the Lady Wolfpack's season.
Senior Tiffany Blackburn's solo home run in the first inning of the state sectionals game against Northgate made the difference in a 1-0 Greenbrier win to send the Lady Wolfpack to the Class AAAA state Elite Eight.
The shot was the second home run of the tournament for Blackburn. Greenbrier softball coach Garrett Black said it only seemed fitting that the team's top senior would step in at a crucial moment.
"We talked about it right before the game," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "We like to say big time players step up in big time games, and I kind of looked at her when I said it. Sure enough, she came up big for us."
Facing a strong Northgate pitching staff, Blackburn was the only Greenbrier batter to get a hit in the final game of the weekend. Greenbrier knocked off McIntosh 7-1 including a three-run home run from freshman Kaila Hunt. Blackburn's first home run of the tournament came in an 8-5 win against Class AAAA No. 10 Griffin in the second round.
While Blackburn and Hunt led the way on offense, Greenbrier pitcher Kassie Bailey once again took care of business on defense.
"She keeps doing the job for us on the mound. She's really doing a good job of keeping people off balance," Black said. "Then our defense has really been playing solid right now. I hope we're peaking at the right time."
The Lady Wolfpack, ranked No. 6 in the final Class AAAA regular season coaches poll, will face No. 4 Eastside in the Class AAAA state finals tournament on Thursday at 12 p.m. in Columbus, Ga.
Greenbrier wasn't the only Columbia County team competing in the state sectionals. Lakeside, who entered the weekend tournament as a No. 3 seed, rattled off three straight wins on Saturday and came within one victory of also qualifying for the state finals tournament. The Lady Panthers, however, were eliminated with a 1-0 loss to Starr's Mill in nine innings. The game was Lakeside's fourth of the day and ended the Lady Panthers' season with a 20-16 overall record.
Evans saw its season come to a quick end with losses to Starr's Mill and Stockbridge in the Lady Knights' only two games of the tournament. Harlem, playing in the Class AAA state sectionals, went 1-2 on the weekend with an opening round loss to Shaw, a loser's bracket win over Worth County and a final loss to Spalding.
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