EVANS --- As Greenbrier coach Garrett Black put it, it's time for the Wolfpack to book some hotel rooms in Columbus.
The Greenbrier softball team defeated Whitewater 9-6 in a 10-inning thriller Thursday at Greenbrier to take the best-of-three series. The Wolfpack now head to Columbus, Ga., for their 11th Elite Eight in a row.
"We've won some ball games here, but wow," 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 first five Greenbrier hitters in the top of the 10th either reached base or drove in a run.
Maggie Evans gave the Wolfpack the lead for good with a single up the middle, and Rachel Nimmons 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.
Pitcher Savanah Coon recorded the final three outs and gave up only one run in the bottom of the 10th.
Greenbrier jumped out to a 3-1 lead when Coon hit a solo home run to left off Kristy Cook, who was replaced by Erica Bell after the Wolfpack scored a run in the first. Cook returned with one out in the fourth and pitched the rest of the game.
The Wildcats got a run back in the fifth, then tied it in the sixth when Cook returned the favor by hitting a solo home run to center off Coon.
Black, who referred to his team as the "Cardiac 'Pack," gave a lot of credit to situational defense to keep his team in the game. On one play, Liz Kelligan gunned down a Whitewater runner at the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
The teams exchanged scoring threats from then on, as Coon, who pitched all 10 innings, got around a leadoff runner on second by retiring three consecutive hitters to force extra innings.
"We just had to fight and be positive," Evans said of the up-and-down late innings.
Greenbrier regained the lead in the eighth when Nimmons hit a triple over the right fielder's head and Smith singled home another run.
Two singles and two walks -- one intentional -- drew Whitewater even again in the bottom of the eighth. The inning ended when a Wildcat was called out with the bases loaded after the runner left the bag without time being called.
Neither team put a run across in the ninth inning, and Coon struck out two hitters in a row with the winning run on base.
After Greenbrier plated four in the top of the 10th, Coon forced a fly out to Nimmons to end the game.
On her way off the mound, Coon 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.
Greenbrier's Liz Kelligan (middle) hugs pitcher Savanah Coon after the Wolfpack beat Whitewater to reach the Class AAAA Elite Eight. Coon hit a homer and pitched the entire game, striking out two in a row with the winning run on base in the ninth. \n Greenbrier's Morgan Tickerhoof slides into second. The Wolfpack will make their 11th consecutive appearance in the Elite Eight after eliminating the Wildcats.