Two local baseball teams earned state playoff bids over the weekend. Evans and Greenbrier both swept their Region 3-AAAA Tournament first-round series and will move on to the Class AAAA state tournament.
The region tournament continues this week, but both Evans and Greenbrier entered Tuesday's region semifinals with state tournament security.
"We still want to win this week and get a home game, but knowing that you're still playing next week regardless is a good feeling," Evans baseball coach Ricky Beale said.
Evans knocked off south top-seed Wayne County and Greenbrier eliminated fourth-seeded Ware County.
As the north subregion's No. 1 seed, the Wolfpack stayed at home for their first-round series. The batters from Ware County were no match for Greenbrier's 1-2 pitching punch of senior Brandon Cumpton and Nolan Belcher. The aces combined for a pair of shutouts, allowed only four hits and struck out a combined 20 batters.
"Those guys give us an opportunity to win," Greenbrier baseball coach Rodney Holder said. "That's all we can ask of them."
Cumpton threw the first game of the doubleheader and Belcher took the second game. That order is a switch from last season's rotation that saw Belcher take Game 1 during the team's state title run. Neither pitcher seems to mind the switch.
"I don't think it would matter either way," Belcher said. "I was a lot more tired in the second game today. I can feel it, but I don't think it affects me that much."
Both Belcher and Cumpton start in the field when not pitching. The two hurlers also contributed to a Wolfpack offense that scored 11 runs in the two-game sweep.
It was another pitcher, junior Pat McGowan, who did the most damage at the plate. In the two games, McGowan went four-for-six with an RBI and two runs scored. Senior center fielder Jeff Rowland went two-for-three from the plate with a two-RBI double and a solo home run in a 5-0 win in Game 1. The second game saw Wolfpack catcher Russ Winter turn in a two-for-three, two-RBI performance at the plate in a 6-0 win.
Unlike top-seeded Greenbrier, the Evans Knights hit the road for their Region 3-AAAA Tournament first-round series. A long road trip to Jesup, Ga., paid off as the Knights toppled Wayne County in two games. In Friday's doubleheader, Evans won the first game 6-4 with senior Kyle Golden turning in a complete-game effort.
"I felt a lot more comfortable than I have in a while," Golden said. "I changed my mechanics a little bit, and it worked."
Junior Kevin Millward went the distance in Game 2 to seal the road sweep. The second game was in doubt after the score remained knotted at 1-1 until the final inning.
Evans junior Teddy Leverett reached second base in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. Leverett broke for third base as batter Brandon McCladdie swung and missed on strike three. The strikeout would have ended the inning, but the ball got past Wayne County's catcher.
"There was a lot of room to the back stop," Golden said. "He came all the way around to score."
Leverett rounded third and slid into home plate to score the game-winning run and secure a trip to the Class AAAA state tournament. Both Evans and Greenbrier will finish the Region 3-AAAA Tournament this weekend to determine seeding for the state tournament.
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