Craig Davis was the band-aid that stopped the bleeding in the Region 3-AAA baseball tournament at Westside on Thursday.
When normal stoppers Philip Tapley and Jamie Parker couldn't shut down Westside's vaunted offensive attack, Greenbrier coach Ed Williams had no choice but to give the ball to Davis, a stocky senior who had pitched just 11 innings this season.
With the Wolfpack trailing 11-2 with two outs in the third inning, Davis shut down Westside's hitting attack, then broke an 11-11 tie in top of the sixth with a two-run homer to send Greenbrier to an 18-14 come-from-behind victory over the Patriots. The win gives the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Region 3-AAA tournament series.
Greenbrier (20-2), the three-time defending Class AAA state champions, needs a victory in either Game 2 or 3 on Saturday at home to get back to the state playoffs.
"I knew I had a job to do," said Davis, who in addition to finishing as the game-winning pitcher, went 3-for-5 with two homers and three RBI.
"They (Westside) have a really good hitting team. I just came in, did my job and hoped to give us a chance to win it."
Davis did more than just give his team a chance to win. He worked scoreless fourth and fifth innings and cruised until Scott Bryant smashed a two-run homer to pull Westside to 18-13. The senior finally ran out of gas in the seventh, recording an out before Bradley Key got the final two outs for the save.
"We worked too hard to give up," Davis said. "We have a title to defend. We just have to come back out Saturday and play hard. We know Westside has a very good hitting team."
The three-hour, 15-minute marathon included 10 homers, including two each from Greenbrier's Jonathan Johnson, Sean Tiernan and Davis. The two teams combined for 32 runs, 23 hits and six errors.
Westside (21-6), one of two teams to beat the Wolfpack this season, stunned the Greenbrier crowd early. Trailing 1-0 in the second, the Patriots opened the floodgates for a six-run inning with a leadoff double by Tyler Wylie followed by a two-run homer by Barry Hall.
But that wasn't all. Two Greenbrier errors coupled by Ryan Nevils' single that plated two runs pushed the score to 11-2 before the Wolfpack knew what had hit them.
"Our guys played hard," Westside coach Gerald Barnes said. "When you score 14 runs and lose, that's pretty tough. We were still in the ballgame until the last out. But it's the best two out of three, and we'll play again Saturday."
Meanwhile, Patriots left-hander Scott Bryant, baffled the Wolfpack until the fourth inning. After a single and a walk, Bryant was lifted. His departure seemed to spell trouble for the Patriots.
Paul Greenway was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Key, who ripped a 1-1 delivery over the center-field fence for a grand slam and trimmed the lead to 11-7.
But that wasn't the deciding blow. Sean Tiernan singled, then a walk to Johnson put two runners on base for Chad Thornhill, who cranked a three-run homer to pull Greenbrier to 11-10.
While Davis' pitching kept Greenbrier in the game, the Wolfpack bats did their part. Tiernan tied the game at 11 in the fifth on a solo homer, then a seven-run sixth inning put the game on ice.
"We had the same situation in the playoffs last season," Tiernan said. "It's like, when one guy gets a hit, it's like an avalanche falling down. We feed off everything."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.
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