For the Greenbrier baseball team, the second time around seems to be better.
The Wolfpack once again earned a spot in the Class AAAA state championship series with a two-game sweep over Marist in the state semifinals on Memorial Day. Greenbrier won the state title last season on a sweep over Marist, and this time they'll face top-ranked Heritage for the crown.
The Class AAAA championship series will begin Friday with a doubleheader at Greenbrier starting at 4 p.m. Game 3, if needed, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Last year we were expected to win it all," Wolfpack junior Nolan Belcher said. "This year nobody gave us the time of day."
That's what makes this second time around so special for many Greenbrier players and fans. The team lost nearly every part of their home-run hitting lineup last season. This year, the offense has come in a different way.
Greenbrier's first trip through the lineup might not be their best, but wait until they cycle through again.
"Most everybody hits better on their second at-bat," Greenbrier senior Jeff Rowland said. "You've already seen what the pitcher's got, and you can use that."
Greenbrier fans saw the Wolfpack score only one run in its first trip through the lineup in Game 1 of Monday's state semifinals. The second trip produced five runs on six hits and came in a big third-inning surge for the Wolfpack.
It's not the only time the Greenbrier batters have excelled on their second try. The Wolfpack were held scoreless in their first at-bats against Woodland in the state quarterfinals last week in both games 1 and 2. On the second trip through the lineup, Greenbrier scored four runs in Game 1 and three in Game 2.
Again, in the second round of the playoffs, Greenbrier players battled through their first at-bats with two runs each in the first and second games against Thomas County Central.
The Wolfpack turned close games into blowout wins with a 10-run third inning in Game 1 and 10 runs in the third and fourth innings in Game 2.
Bottom line: Greenbrier batters know how to make adjustments.
"We get a chance to see their pitcher the first time up and see his different speeds and location and everything," Greenbrier senior Russ Winter said. "That way, whenever you go through the first time, whether you get a hit or get out, you know you can do better the next time."
It's a philosophy that has led to a 27-game winning streak for the Wolfpack entering Friday's championship play. When the final doubleheader of the year begins, expect to see the same type of approach. It might take an inning or two for the Greenbrier bats to reach their full potential.
"You're a little anxious when you get up there in this kind of environment with your first at-bat and the big crowd like this," Belcher said. "Then after that you get your timing down, and it gets better."
Then again, the warm up might have already come. Greenbrier has faced Heritage once this season - an early-season game that saw Heritage win at home 3-2 in eight innings.
"We've seen Heritage already," Greenbrier baseball coach Rodney Holder said. "They're a good team, and we're going to have to swing the bats again."
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