Nick Wandless was icing his arm at Greenbrier High School on Wednesday night when he looked to coach Ed Williams and said he wanted to be on the mound for Thursday's deciding game against Heritage.
Sure, he'd already pitched a two-hitter earlier that day in the Class AAAA second-round state series. Sure, he knew his arm probably would hurt.
But Wandless was willing to make those sacrifices.
And against the Patriots on Thursday, he showed them he's almost unhittable when he's forced to pitch on a day's rest.
Twenty-two hours after leading his team to victory, Wandless scattered seven hits and gave up just one earned run as he and leftfielder Graham Posey combined to go 5-for-5 with 3 RBIs to give the Wolfpack a 7-2 victory and a series win.
To Wandless, the pain he felt in his arm throughout most of the game was well worth it.
"When I was warming up in the bullpen, I felt good," said Wandless, who improved to 11-1. "In the second inning, my arm started hurting. But I worked through it. That's what it's all about. I wanted it so much, I could die for it."
Instead, he killed the season for the Patriots (24-7). After an RBI single by Heritage third baseman Brad Shea gave Heritage a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Greenbrier (23-6) countered with three in the bottom of the inning - a double by Posey and a single by Wandless did most of the damage - to give Wandless all the support he'd need.
"When Nick was icing his arm after (Wednesday's doubleheader), you could tell he wanted it," said Williams, whose team will travel Monday to play Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. "When you have a kid like that, it makes the decision easy. He didn't have any doubt in his mind that he was going to pitch.
"The first inning for us was big. For them to get up on us in the first inning and then for us to score like that, that took a lot of pressure off Nick and everybody else."
And after Wandless got past the first inning, he settled down, striking out five and allowing one unearned run to score in the sixth.
Greenbrier's offense, however, made sure that extra run wouldn't matter.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the fifth, the Wolfpack finished off the Patriots for good when Phillip Tapley scored two with a single and Brooks Robinson hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
"We didn't play our two best games Wednesday," Tapley said. "So, we went home and got refocused. We just came out and put together seven good innings of baseball."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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