GREENBRIER — Another state 5A softball championship would sandwich a superb four-year run by seniors on the Greenbrier softball team.
The current seniors, as freshmen, were part of a state championship team in 2010. Greenbrier has been 5A-West champions the last four years, posting a 51-3 record. The Lady Panthers have reached the state semifinals five straight years, including last year when they lost to White Hall, the team they will play Saturday for the state championship at the University of Arkansas’ Bogle Park.
"We’ve been knocking at the door the past couple of years but just couldn’t get there (to the title game); it’s great to finally get there again. But there are a lot of good, tough teams in our classification," said Greenbrier coach Brian Butler.
White Hall, the defending state champion, is one of them.
"We’re familiar with them and they are very good," Butler said. "They have three or four good seniors from the team that beat us in the semifinals."
Greenbrier (25-2) has lost to Beebe and Vilonia. The Lady Panthers split conference games with the Lady Eagles. Greenbrier entered the state tourney as the No. 1 seed from the West and Vilonia was No 2. White Hall defeated Vilonia in the semifinals. Greenbrier defeated Little Rock Christian, Nettleton and Paragould to reach the championship game.
After losing a quality senior class from last year, Butler wasn’t sure how things would work out this season.
"We had three great players go on to college ball, but the girls we had stepped up and didn’t miss a beat," he said. "We started playing really well going into the state tournament."
To reach the finals, Greenbrier won seven games in six days at various venues throughout the state.
The streak began with a doubleheader sweep at Alma. The Lady Panthers then won twice at Huntsville the next day before winning three straight games in the state tournament at Hope.
"We did a lot of traveling," Butler said. "Sometimes playing that many games in a week hurts you and sometimes it helps you," Butler said. "In this case, it helped us to play a lot of ball. We started hitting the ball a lot better. We started playing some very good softball last week."
Handling most of the pitching has been Aundrea Hardin, one of the senior leaders. Greenbrier’s leading hitter is University of Central Arkansas recruit Bailey Reynolds, who has hit five home runs. Autumn Russell, a junior who has committed to play for the University of Arkansas, is one of the fastest players in the state. "Anytime, she gets on base, she has a good chance of scoring," Butler said.
The Greenbrier-White Hall game is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.