Something ignited Pat McGowan when he pitched against Lakeside for the second time this season.
The Panthers were getting the best of him in the third inning. The Greenbrier pitcher surrendered two base hits, then hit consecutive batters to score a run, then allowed another run-scoring hit.
This is the point where pitchers can implode; pack it up mentally and head back to the dugout as shouts of "rattled" rain down.
McGowan refocused. He worked faster and held Lakeside hitless the final three innings. The damage was done, and McGowan picked up the loss.
But he exhibited the competitiveness that earned him the opportunity to play for Gordon College next year. He signed his scholarship April 22.
"So many guys we see in high school don't have that will he has," Highlanders coach Travis McClanahan said. "They don't play hard all the time. He's already doing that."
Pat McGowan was the Wolfpack's No. 3 guy last season. He knew it was nothing to be down about.
Of the two players ahead of him in Greenbrier's 2007 state championship rotation, one -- Brandon Cumpton -- now pitches for a Division I program and the other -- Nolan Belcher -- is on his way.
McGowan was patient, stayed in shape, worked on his change-up and waited for word from Wolfpack coach Rodney Holder.
"Whenever he called on me, I was ready," McGowan said. "This year, I've had that opportunity a lot more."
McGowan's success can only be attributed to himself, Holder said.
"You see so many people trying to claim credit for things," Holder said. "This is 100 percent Pat McGowan."
McGowan's workload won't get any lighter next season at Gordon. His play and his grades will determine where he plays after leaving the two-year school. McGowan said Gordon's academic reputation was a draw.
"They're on you about it," he said. "I needed that."
McClanahan watched McGowan pitch against Lakeside on March 24. The left-hander allowed two runs on four hits in the second inning but soon settled during the Wolfpack's 7-2 win.
"I just saw a guy, even though he didn't have his best stuff, he was a competitor," McClanahan said. "And he swung a good bat."
McGowan said locking up his immediate future would allow him to relax on the mound. But he struggled during the Wolfpack's 10-8 loss to Ware County on Friday in the second game of the Region 3-AAAA first-round playoffs.
Belcher pitched the first four innings of the last game of the series to help Greenbrier advance to the region semifinals. Afterwards, he expressed confidence in his senior teammate. He feels McGowan can bounce back as he did against the Panthers earlier in the season.
"He's doing fine," Belcher said. "He's just having some tough luck. Some people are worried. I'm not worried. He's a gamer."
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