Stuck in the loser's bracket of the softball sectional tournament last year and playing Columbus, Greenbrier needed a win to advance to the finals.
It was there - with her team losing 2-1 in the seventh inning, three outs from a season-ending loss - that Greenbrier pitcher Kristan Glover felt the butterflies.
With a Lady Wolfpack runner on first and nobody out, Glover laid down a bunt. A Columbus player threw the ball into right field, Greenbrier tied the game and eventually won to earn a berth in the state tournament.
That experience helped turn Glover into one of the best pitchers in the state. In turn, she gives Greenbrier a strong chance of improving on last year's seventh-place finish. The Lady Wolfpack, along with Lakeside and Cross Creek, open play today in the Class AAAA state sectional tournament at Diamond Lakes.
"She learned a lot last year," said Greenbrier coach Garrett Black, whose squad is seeded first and plays No. 4 Jordan at 6 p.m. "She's definitely improved this year. Last year, she had a good group of seniors that held her hand. I have a good group of seniors this year, too, but she's stepped right in and been a part of their leadership. And the scary thing is, she'll only get better."
It doesn't seem there's much to improve.
Holding her opponents to a .083 batting average, the sophomore is 20-2 with an ERA of 0.10. She's notched six no-hitters, combined on another and helped pitch a perfect game with Jenni Massengale, the team's No. 2 pitcher. Glover has struck out 253 of the 482 batters she's faced (52 percent). She's given up only two earned runs this season.
"The senior leadership we had last year helped set the table for this year," said Glover, whose fastball has been clocked at 64 mph. "I feel more mature this year, not as nervous."
Her catcher agrees.
"Of course, she's older," junior Ashlee LaFontaine said. "But she seems more composed on the mound. Now we have a better understanding of each other."
That maturity led the Lady Wolfpack (30-2) to their seventh straight Region 3-AAAA championship.
She could take them further this year - possibly to the program's first state title.
"Her teammates look at her (when they're in a jam), and they feel they'll get out of it," Black said. "At times, she's put us on her back this year. She's definitely taken our program to the next level."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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