Originally created 08/25/06

Catcher's power not only felt at plate



It's hard to find a high school with a better track record than Greenbrier's softball team.

Since the school opened in 1995, the Lady Wolfpack have won 11 consecutive region championships.

In 2004, they won the Class AAAA state championship. Since then, they've been regulars at the state tournament and Elite Eight held in Columbus, Ga.

"We've been blessed to have some great kids come through this program," Greenbrier softball coach Garrett Black said.

The list of top talent to grace the Lady Wolfpack diamond is a long one. Katie Sutherland led the team in 2003 with a .409 batting average and 39 RBI. Kristan Glover, the Class AAAA Pitcher of the Year from the '04 team, sparked the Lady Wolfpack to a state championship. Both are now playing NCAA Division-I softball at Tennessee Tech. Last spring, six more Greenbrier seniors were recruited by college coaches.

Greenbrier has another star this year.

"I've said it before. We may have lost seven starters and we may be young, but we have Tiffany Blackburn and they don't. That's the way I look at it," Black said.

Blackburn, one of five seniors on the team, has been a regular starter since her freshman season. Her power became known around the state after her game-winning home run in the 2004 state semifinals sent the Lady Wolfpack to the state championship. Last season, the junior's reputation soared when she won a bet from her coach by hitting the flag pole on a home run to dead center field in a practice.

Black said that while Blackburn's hitting comes from natural talent, the rest of her game is a product of Greenbrier's program.

"I credit the kids who have put on the uniform before her - Kristan Glover, Amanda Glover, Brittany Leverett, Katie Sutherland," Black said. "They prepared Tiffany for her senior year leadership-wise. It's nothing I do. It's tradition."

So far the team captain hasn't disappointed. In the team's first six games this season, Blackburn is 12-for-18 with 13 RBI and two home runs.

Blackburn is also busy grooming the next generation of potential stars. A pair of freshmen made the starting lineup this year and have quickly become Blackburn's students.

Black said that Kaila Hunt and Ashlyn Masters could be next in the long line of Greenbrier greats.

"Our shortstop and second baseman could be two of the best kids to come through Columbia County as far as softball is concerned," he said. "They came to me polished. It's my job not to mess it up."

The polishing will continue under Blackburn's direction.

"As a senior in a leadership role it's my responsibility to help everyone out," she said.

Hunt, a starter at Greenbrier Middle last year, said she's already beginning to understand the team's tradition of winning.

"It's big. There's a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure," she said. "When we walk on the field people know that we have to do good, and we're going to be hard to beat."

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 863-6165 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.