When Nolan Belcher emerged from the dugout to take the mound for what would be the final time of his high school career, the Greenbrier crowd stood and cheered.
Long after he left the field for the last time, they cheered for another reason.
The Wolfpack were bounced from the Class AAAA state baseball playoffs for the first time in three years, dropping the final two games of their quarterfinal series with Loganville 12-11 and 10-0.
The Red Devils led the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader before lightning forced the teams to start anew Wednesday.
Loganville coach Jeff Seagers said he got on the bus Tuesday night and told his team the Wolfpack still had to beat them one more time.
"I told them to punch until they couldn't punch anymore," Seagers said. "We got a team full of fighters."
Belcher, the Wolfpack's senior pitcher, lost the first playoff game of his career after he inherited a two-run lead in Game 2, and the Wolfpack couldn't match Loganville's bats in the deciding third game.
When the final out had been recorded in the deciding third game, Greenbrier's players shook the hands of the winners, and the Wolfpack seniors lingered long after the game was over.
"We've done this to plenty of teams over the years," Wolfpack senior Ryan Cato said. "It stinks being on the other side of it."
They then gathered at the backstop, where they exchanged applause with the fans who had watched them win the past two state championships.
Belcher had taken the mound a few hours earlier to raucous cheers from the home crowd, who had grown accustomed to the Wolfpack ace's dominance the past three seasons.
But the Red Devils managed a rally in the fifth inning of Game 2, scoring two runs on three hits to tie it. They squeezed across the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, and Red Devils pitcher Casey Shiver held the Wolfpack's bats from there.
"I definitely wanted the ball in that situation," Belcher said. "I just couldn't seem to get the big strikeout."
Shiver pitched the final 8w innings of the series. He started Game 3 and held the Wolfpack scoreless.
Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 863-6165 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.