SPRINGFIELD — “Small ball” worked in a big way for the South Effingham Mustangs on Wednesday.
The Mustangs scored all their runs in the last three innings to rally past Effingham County 6-3 in a well-played game at Rebel Field. It was the season opener for both teams.
“I was proud of my guys,” Mustangs coach Jonny DeRing said. “They started at little slow tonight but they played the game of baseball.”
Effingham County coach Brett Griffin was also proud the Rebels and far from downcast after their setback.
“I was very pleased with the way our kids played, especially the way we pitched,” he said. “(Starting pitcher) Blake (Vincent) gave us four good innings, and he was right at his ceiling as far as the pitch count. That’s what we want to see out of our starters.”
DeRing was thrilled that his team scratched for runs despite having only one extra-base hit. Two of its six base knocks didn’t leave the infield.
“They moved runners, hustled and got after it a little bit,” DeRing said. “For us, that’s the kind of baseball we have to play. That’s got to be our game.
“We’ve got to be able to play small ball and come up with the clutch hits.”
South Effingham, which drew six walks, entered the fifth inning down 2-0, collecting only an infield hit along the way against Vincent.
Vincent, however, walked Jakob Valleroy and hit Josh Berg to start the fifth frame and Dylan Wallace followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position.
Jake Sapp then singled in a run and Jayce Warren put the Mustangs on top with a two-RBI knock.
“We did a good job with that bunt,” DeRing said. “We missed some signs that would have made our small ball a little bit better.”
South Effingham also capitalized on a pair of free passes to open the sixth inning against Ryan Harley. Berg delivered the key blow, stroking a double against Chrys Hawkins that plated Devin Stefanski and Grayson Spendiff.
A wild pitch in the seventh inning helped the Mustangs score their final run.
The Rebels, who collected eight hits, jumped on top in the first inning when Zach Wilson plated Christian Campbell with a fielder’s choice grounder. Campbell got aboard on a game-opening walk by Valleroy.
Jerid Stokes, who singled, scored for Effingham County in the fourth inning when the Mustangs mishandled a Chase Warren grounder.
The Rebels’ plated their final run in the sixth inning without the benefit of a hit.
Effingham County's Jordan Rahn led all hitters with three singles.
The will get a chance to even its three-game, season-opening series against the Mustangs on Thursday at 6 p.m. at South Effingham. The Rebels will also visit the Mustangs on Friday at the same time.
“Our kids look forward to playing South Effingham,” Griffin said. “They put a lot of hours in and it’s always good to see them go out and do what they are supposed to do. There are some things we’ve got to work on but that’s part of it, too.”