Three Columbia County softball teams hit the road for state tournament play during the weekend. Harlem traveled to Dublin, Ga., for the Class AAA state south sectional, while Evans and Greenbrier journeyed to Hampton, Ga., for the Class AAAA state south sectional.
Greenbrier, the team that lost first out of the three local squads, ended up as the only team to survive the weekend. The Lady Wolfpack did it by working their way through the losers' bracket after losing to Class AAAA No. 7 Whitewater in the second round on Friday.
Greenbrier eliminated Starr's Mill and Dutchtown on Saturday to climb to within one win of a state finals tournament bid and a trip to Columbus, Ga. Standing in the Lady Wolfpack's way was Evans.
"To be honest with you I didn't want to see them again," Greenbrier softball coach Garrett Black said. "I just figured we've played them so much. The percentages had to be against us."
The two Columbia County arch rivals had already faced off four times this season with Greenbrier winning all but one meeting. It took a marathon game of 10 innings for the Lady Wolfpack to earn a 3-2 win in match up No. 5.
"It was the most unbelievable game I've ever been a part of," Black said. "Both teams deserve to be in Columbus. It was just a gutty performance on both sides."
Both teams endured times throughout the game when they thought they had the win wrapped up only to be stolen away. The first heartbreaking moment came in the bottom of the fifth inning when Evans loaded the bases with two outs but failed to score a run.
After seven innings of regulation softball, the teams were still knotted at 0-0, and the game went in to extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth inning Evans thought they had a win when the game-winning run crossed home plate on a fly out to centerfield.
The Lady Knights celebrated, but Greenbrier's Black appealed to the umpire that the runner left third base early. After some discussion, the third base umpire ruled the runner didn't tag up and took the run off the scoreboard.
"I didn't see it," Black said. "That goes to one of our assistant coaches Laura Paulos. She picked up on it, and grabbed me and told me to appeal it."
An inning later it was Greenbrier's turn to see a potential game-winner go for naught. The Lady Wolfpack were celebrating after two runs scored in the top of the ninth inning. However, Evans' leading hitter Jenny Shepherd ripped a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game again at 2-2.
Finally, in the top of the 10th inning, Greenbrier's Liana Wuchte hit a sacrifice fly that scored Jasmine Butler. The Lady Wolfpack held Evans scoreless in the bottom of the 10th to survive with a 3-2 win.
"This will be a game that will be talked about for years," Black said. "We were all just drained after that."
The win marked the eighth consecutive year Greenbrier has advanced to the state finals tournament, and the eighth straight year the Lady Wolfpack have totalled 30 wins or more in a season.
Evans finished its season with a 25-13 overall record.
Greenbrier (33-6) is now one of eight teams remaining in the state playoffs. The Lady Wolfpack will advance to the Class AAAA State Finals Tournament in Columbus, Ga. with a first-round game on Thursday at 2 p.m. Of the 10 teams ranked in last week's Class AAAA top 10 coaches poll, only three remain.
Harlem Lady Bulldogs end season at tourney
In Dublin Ga., Harlem's Lady Bulldogs were one win away from advancing to the Class AAA State Finals Tournament after winning both of their Friday games.
Harlem blew out first-round opponent Worth County 14-0 then knocked off LaGrange 6-4. However, the Lady Bulldogs' season came to an end on Saturday with a 7-2 loss to Class AAA No. 4 Harris County and a 14-0 loss to Class AAA No. 7 Hardaway.
"We had a great season," Harlem softball coach Mike Leverett said. "We just ran out of gas."
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