It wasn't easy, but Greenbrier's softball team found a way -- again -- to advance past the second round of the state playoffs.
The Wolfpack defeated Whitewater 9-6 in a 10-inning thriller Thursday at Greenbrier to take the best-of-three series.
The game followed Wednesday's doubleheader, which the teams split -- Greenbrier won Game 1, 3-2, and Whitewater took the second, 6-0.
Greenbrier now heads to Columbus, Ga., for the Class AAAA Elite Eight, its 11th in a row. It begins Thursday.
"We've won some ball games here, but wow," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "Somebody was watching over us tonight."
In a back-and-forth contest that saw both sides seemingly on the verge of defeat, the international tiebreaker format was used once extra innings began. The format forces the action by putting a runner on second base to start each half inning.
In the 10th inning, the first five Greenbrier hitters in the top of the 10th either reached base or drove in a run. Maggie Evans gave the Wolfpack (29-10) the lead for good with a single up the middle, and Rachel Nimmons later hit a ball off the left fielder's glove to drive in two more.
An RBI on a sacrifice fly from Haley Smith ended the scoring in the top of the frame, then pitcher Savanah Coon finished off a complete game victory by recording the final three outs.
Coon gave up only one run in the bottom of the 10th. On her way off the mound, she put her glove over her face just as her teammates met her in the infield to start the celebration.
"There are just too many emotions -- like an anxiety attack," Coon said.
Knights get swept
Evans came into the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs with plenty of momentum after outscoring Morrow 34-1 in a Round 1 sweep.
Northgate's pitching pairing of Ashley Clayton and Forrest Skelton squelched that momentum, producing a pair of shutouts Wednesday -- 2-0 and 5-0 -- on Evans' home field that ended the Knights' season.
Evans coach Colette Cassedy said that making the second round was an accomplishment considering the challenges her team faced this season.
"They've been fighting the whole season," Cassedy said. "We were young, and that's not an excuse or a reason why you can't compete. But when you're filling key positions after losing players -- that goes for any team -- you just never know.
"It's kind of like a mystery in a way. ... It's like a jigsaw puzzle."
Evans (20-15) had only two seniors on the roster this season, and both came up with strong performances. But it wasn't enough to keep the Knights alive.
Senior second baseman Kristin Hampson had the first hit against Clayton in Game 1. Evans' only other hit in the game was a single by senior catcher Kayla Cates.
Clayton struck out 13 in a complete game shutout.
In Game 2, Skelton also shut down the Knights. She scattered five hits and struck out seven.
For Northgate, sophomore first baseman Andie Martin carried the offense. She had a home run in each game and finished the day 3-for-4 with four RBI.
Harlem's season ends
After sweeping Cairo at home in the first round, Harlem came into its Class AAA second-round series facing a daunting task.
The Bulldogs' opponent, West Laurens, had shut out 10 consecutive opponents while outscoring them 101-0. In addition, the Raiders had been nearly unbeatable at home.
Not only did the Bulldogs score in all three games on the road against the Raiders, but they won the opener, 4-2.
Harlem leaned on standout pitcher Kristen Mills. She earned the Game 1 victory.
West Laurens evened the series at a game apiece with a 6-1 win to finish Wednesday's doubleheader. It set up a decisive third game to determine which team would advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus, Ga.
After struggling a bit early in Game 2, Mills came back strong in the final contest.
Harlem led 3-2 going into the seventh inning. Up against the wall, West Laurens fought back to tie the game.
The Raiders broke through again an inning later, earning a 4-3 victory in eight innings.
Harlem ends the season at 24-10-2.
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