The Greenville baseball team earned its trip to the Class D state championship game largely on the dual foundations of pitching and defense.
But leave it to the Lakers to have their most explosive offensive performance of the spring when it mattered most, as coach Tyler Muzzy’s club soared past Katahdin of Stacyville 17-3 in a five-inning state final at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
Greenville capitalized on 12 walks, two hit batsmen and three Katahdin errors while mounting a season-high for runs scored in a game in winning its first state championship in any boys’ sport since 1990 — also in baseball.
The Lakers also welcomed back one of their big bats, junior outfielder Chris Munro, who had missed the team’s previous 10 games after taking a line drive to the face while pitching batting practice and suffering a broken jaw.
Munro moved to the Greenville area last winter from Claremont, N.C., a small town about an hour north of Charlotte where he played on the junior varsity baseball team as a sophomore at Bunker Hill High School.
He had gotten off to a red-hot start with the Lakers this spring, amassing a team-leading 21 RBIs in six games before being sidelined.
He returned to practice Thursday, just two days before the state championship game.
“I had two days worth of practice,” said Munro. “I was a little worried when I first got back to practice because I didn’t have the feel for hitting, but everything worked out and I came into this game pretty confident.”
Muzzy immediately plugged Munro into the leadoff spot in the Greenville batting order, and he went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the final.
“It was big having Chris Munro back at the top of the lineup,” said Greenville third baseman Anthony DiAngelo. “He’s been a big bat for us when he’s been in there, and it made our lineup a lot deeper.”
Munro had a special batting helmet with a facial cage available, but after taking batting practice with it briefly Thursday he opted to stick with a more traditional model.
“I didn’t feel the need to,” he said. “I bat righthanded, and I broke my jaw on the right side so I wasn’t facing the pitcher.”
Munro had both of his hits against Katahdin during the third inning, following an RBI double by Tristan Richards with an RBI single to left field to start the Lakers’ uprising, then capping it off with a two-run single as Greenville broke the game open by sending 15 batters to the plate and scoring 10 runs to extend its lead to 14-2.
“It was great to be able to come back and to be part of such a great team performance in such a big game,” said Munro. “They gave me a chance to come back to play in this game, so I had to do my best to do my part.”
The only precarious moment Munro faced during his return to action came later in the game after he moved to first base and immediately came face-to-face with a hard-hit grounder by Katahdin’s Kolby Gallagher. Munro, ranging to his right, was able to deflect the ball with his glove and perhaps most importantly keep it away from his jaw.
“That was scary,” he said. “It was pretty close, but I was just trying to catch the ball.”
Greenville (15-2) is graduating five seniors off its 17-player roster including DiAngelo, a four-year starter, first baseman Kevin Stafford and pitching ace Jeremy St. Louis.
But Munro and several other starters will return, giving the Lakers a solid head start toward success in 2012.
“Chris is one of the best baseball players I’ve seen in Greenville,” said Muzzy, a 2002 graduate of the school. “He’s a pure baseball player, and having him back [Saturday] was just so emotionally uplifting for our team. You could see the confidence skyrocket.
“You couldn’t write a better storybook ending for us, getting Chris back for this game and winning the state championship.”
Lakers’ links to the past
This year’s state championship Greenville baseball team had at least two connections to the school’s 1990 baseball team that won the Class D state title.
Kevin Stafford, the 2011 team’s starting first baseman, is the son of current Greenville athletic administrator Jeff Stafford, who was an assistant coach on the 1990 team that defeated Richmond 8-3 in the state final.
And Lakers’ reserve Colby Harmon is the son of Terry Harmon, a pitcher and infielder on the 1990 club.