In what’s been a turbulent and tragedy-filled year for Effingham County High School, there’s something going on everyone can get behind.
With teammate Logan Shelton fighting to recover from what is said to be a critical brain injury suffered in an auto accident last Friday night, the Rebels baseball players emblazoned the number 6 of his jersey on their caps and helmets and on their sweatbands and painted his initials in eye black on their faces.
Shelton, a junior infielder, was one of three teenagers hurt in that auto accident and was the most seriously injured.
If you want to see the Rebels in action, you’re going to have hit the road — for a long drive. As the No. 4 seed, Effingham is relegated to being the road team as long as the Rebels remain in the playoffs. Only if South Paulding had remained alive in the playoffs would Effingham have been a home team at any point. The Rebels also could have played within the county, though not at home — had South Effingham kept winning, the Rebels and Mustangs would have played for a state championship at The Corral.
But the players seem to have taken to playing on the road quite well. The Rebels have not played a home game since early April. In three road state playoff series, they have swept all three opponents — that’s a 6-0 mark after making treks to Jonesboro, Warner Robins and Dunwoody. That’s a total round trip of 1,250 miles for the Rebels.
And they’re not done yet. But the road still isn’t easy.
Whitewater beat top-ranked and previously undefeated Wayne County in Jesup in the second round and swept No. 8-ranked Pope on Tuesday. The other semifinal matches the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the state, Marist and Loganville.
When the Rebels returned to ECHS on Wednesday afternoon, they were greeted by a throng of well-wishers.
The school needs something good to happen, and sports is often a diversion from times fraught with sadness. In this case, it’s more than a diversion — it can be a rallying point. Maybe the Rebels baseball team didn’t ask to be in this position but they are well-suited to take on the duty. It’s an older group for the most part and they have relished their role as underdogs since the playoffs began.
We’re fortunate in this county to have two very good high school baseball programs with dedicated, determined and demanding coaching staffs. They only ask out of the kids to be their best at all times.
Tuesday against Dunwoody, which was ranked ninth in the state, the Rebels were the better team. They’re playing their best when it counts the most.
If you’re looking for something to cheer for or something to make you feel better about what’s going on, you might want to try pulling for the Rebels baseball team.