Greenbrier High School baseball coach Chris Wilkins said before the season his team's primary focus would be its Region 2-AAAAA games.
The words reverberated after the Wolfpack dropped three of their first four games, all non-region opponents.
Players had to regroup, said shortstop Ben Morgan. There was dissension that had to be squashed after a loss to Harlem.
"Everybody's starting to get their roles," he said.
After the Harlem loss, the Wolfpack won their next three games by a combined score of 37-1. They earned a key region victory Tuesday by beating defending region champion Luella 5-3.
The Lions snatched the 2009 Region 2-AAAAA title from Greenbrier after winning the teams' second meeting by enough runs to earn the tie-breaker. That Luella team graduated 10 seniors and the team on the field Tuesday started four sophomores.
"I'm hoping we can grow up a little bit and turn it around," said Luella coach Andy Cooper.
Wilkins said expectations were high after several Wolfpack players signed to play college ball before the season and proclaimed their goal of winning a state title.
"Obviously, we started out not the way we wanted to start out,' Wilkins said. "Those games are paying dividends now. Evans always makes you better. Lakeside, Harlem -- all those guys."
The Wolfpack led 5-0 Tuesday before Luella started to chip away late.
Greenbrier avoided disaster when pitcher Shawn McCain wiggled out of a fourth-inning, bases-loaded jam. With one out, the Wolfpack got a force out at the plate. Lions lead-off man Cody Powell then popped up. Lefty Chad Farmer relieved McCain in the fifth and struck out seven the final three innings.
McCain has had to adjust to a new role this season. The big senior, signed to play next year at Western Carolina, moved to the starting role from reliever. Coaches moved McCain from catcher to first base on days he doesn't pitch. Freshman Taylor Glover has been called on to run things behind the plate.
McCain struck out five Tuesday. He forced the Lions to put the ball in play and allowed the defense to work behind him.
Farmer inherited a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth. He walked in a run, but fanned the other three batters he faced during the inning.
His breaking ball fooled the Lions. Wilkins said Farmer threw the best he has this season.
Photo by Corey Perrine\nLuella's Vincent Jackson makes it back to first base in time as Greenbrier's Kyler Timmerman makes the grab at first base Tuesday at Greenbrier.