The Effingham County Rebels saw their magical 2011 baseball season come to an end Monday night just outside Fayetteville, losing to the Whitewater Wildcats in two games that could not have been more different.
In the first game, Whitewater trailed by two runs in the bottom of the seventh but rallied to tie before winning 7-4 on Alex Liquori’s walk-off grand slam in the eighth.
The Wildcats exploded early in the nightcap and rode the strong starting pitching of Daniel Amos to take a 12-2 win in six innings. Whitewater will face the winner of the Marist-Loganville series for the AAAA state championship.
The Rebels racked up 11 hits in the first game. They got on the board first when Cal Baker singled home Kerry Ward in the top of the second.
The score was tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth when Austin Denney singled to left with one out and Justin Bowen hit a home run just over the fence and only a few feet from the right-field foul pole.
Whitewater left the bases loaded in the fifth and left another man on base in the sixth. Effingham starter Ryan Frederick gave up only one run through six innings.
Eric Knox came on in relief of Frederick in the seventh. After the Wildcats put the first two runners on base, Liquori singled to drive in a run and John Mark Rhodes tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
D.J. Driggers doubled home Ward to give the Rebels the lead in the top of the eighth. Whitewater loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batsman to set the stage for Liquori’s heroics.
Playing the second game as home team, the Rebels got on the board in the bottom of the first when Cal Baker singled to left, reached second on an errant pickoff throw and scored on a two-out double by Austin Denney to tie the game.
But the Wildcats erupted for five runs in the second and four in the third to take a 10-1 lead. The big blow in the second inning was Drew Wesolowski’s three-run homer, and the Wildcats took advantage of three Rebel errors to complement their three hits in the inning.
The Rebels got another run in the fifth when Bowen walked and scored on Ward’s double off Wildcat reliever Taylor Miller. After two more Whitewater runs in the top of the sixth, Miller got a pair of strikeouts to end the game.
Whitewater starter Daniel Amos struck out seven and scattered five hits through four innings to get the win. Denney took the loss for Effingham County.