In a game laden with memorable plays, Liberty's Greg Garey yesterday gave himself the memory of a lifetime.
Called upon to pinch hit with his team trailing by two and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, the reserve outfielder stepped off the bench and into the headlines, hitting a game-winning three-run double to the gap in right-center to lift the host Lions to a dramatic 7-6 win over North Carroll.
It was a most fitting way to end an emotional roller coaster of a battle, which saw the Panthers, down 4-1 at one point, tie it in the seventh on David Doarnberger's two-out, two-run homer, then take a 6-4 lead in the ninth by sending eight batters to the plate.
"These kids could have easily packed it in down two runs in that situation," said Liberty coach Erik Barnes, whose team (9-1, 6-1 in the Central Maryland Conference) had to face reliever Mark Campbell, one of the county's top all-around players, in its final at-bat. "We just continued to battle, got some base runners and executed at the end."
Campbell, relieving starter Nate Miller, who had allowed two earned runs on six hits through eight innings, struggled with his control. He quickly loaded the bases with a single to Jon Bruce sandwiched between walks to Alex Moore and Perry Sartain, setting the stage for Garey.
Barnes, cognizant of the fact that Campbell was struggling to throw his curveball for strikes, told Garey to wait for his pitch.
"He told me to just look for a nice fastball down the middle," said Garey. "I just got my pitch, I guess. I was just trying to put the ball in play. Normally I'm nervous [pinch hitting], but for some reason I was laid back. I just wanted to make something happen."
The senior did just that, driving a fastball deep into the gap in right-center, allowing all three runs to score and touching off a wild celebration near second base.
"I think that game optimized our whole team philosophy," said Barnes. "Greg's a guy who doesn't always start, but we tell them all to be ready at anytime to step on the field and produce, and that's exactly what he did."
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Panthers (5-4, 5-2), who scored five of their six runs in the sixth inning and beyond. To North Carroll coach Denny Snyder, however, it was some early mistakes that made the biggest difference.
"We gave them some unearned runs early, and that really killed us," said Snyder. "It was a heck of an effort for us to come back and go up on them. It was an emotional roller coaster ride. Hopefully we'll learn from it."