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450 and counting
Surging Mustangs earn milestone for coach
Todd Eubanks
Mustangs coach Todd Eubanks gets an infielder in position during a March 31 Region 2-AAAAAA game against the Pirates at The Corral. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Noah Hollis
South Effingham’s Nick Milbrandt (27) goes airborne with fellow infielder Noah Hollis following Hollis’ home run against Brunswick at The Corral on March 31. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We control our destiny.
South Effingham coach Todd Eubanks

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — In three weeks, the script has flipped for South Effingham baseball — a feeling of “uh-oh” giving way to “oh-boy”.

Friday, the Mustangs’ 5-1 victory over Brunswick completed a three-game sweep and extended a winning streak to nine games -- the longest at the school since 2014.

After starting Region 2-AAAAAA play getting swept by Glynn Academy, SEHS entered this week with a chance of passing co-region leader Statesboro.

The Mustangs and Blue Devils begin their three-game series on Monday with Game 2 in Statesboro on Wednesday and the finale back in Guyton on Friday.

“The kids knew they were better than what they showed (against Glynn),” SEHS coach Todd Eubanks said. “Adversity sometimes reveals your character.”

The Mustangs (15-5, 6-3 Region 2-AAAAAA) are also revealing some outstanding starting pitching and timely hitting.

During the winning streak, SEHS starters have a combined earned run average of 2.10 and the team batting average has risen from .278 to .334.

The last nine games, the Mustangs have outscored their opponents 84-20 — an average of about 9-2 each contest. Part of that was inflated while roughing up Bradwell Institute, a team winless in the region. But the Mustangs also had little problem galloping through Brunswick, a squad that won two of three against highly regarded Richmond Hill early in the season and had one victory in three tries against both region co-leaders Glynn Academy and Statesboro.

SEHS won the first game against Brunswick 7-2 behind starter Nick Milbrandt, then roughed up  undefeated pitcher Blake Wellman with seven runs in less than four complete innings during a 7-3 win in the second game.

Mustangs righty Nick Duke threw a complete game in Game 2.

It was an enjoyable week for Eubanks, who notched his 450th career coaching win March 31 and began heading toward the next milestone Friday.

According to Internet site Georgia Dugout Preview, Eubanks has a career record of 451-249 and at the start of the 2021 season ranked 24th in wins among active coaches in the state and tied for 61st all-time.

Just three weeks ago, it wasn’t such a jovial time. SEHS surrendered 13 runs in a seventh inning to forget to let a 9-3 advantage slip away against Glynn.

“We went through the low spot, but the kids responded,” Eubanks said. “A lot of teams wouldn’t have come back from that. We had three good practices after (the Glynn series) and some success followed.”

Renewed confidence wasn’t hard to see. Second baseman Phillip Cooper began a double play with a behind-the-back assist against Metter. Pinchrunner Shane Chapman made a daring second base to home sprint against Brunswick while running during a wild pitch.

In Game 3 against Brunswick, sophomore Kaleb Johnson displayed the team’s pitching resilience. Three of the first four Pirates reached base for a quick 2-0 lead.

But Johnson didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way while pitching into the seventh inning.

Some big series await the Mustangs — Statesboro, rival Effingham County and hard-hitting Richmond Hill — but that’s always the progression for teams having a good season.

And within three weeks, SEHS has put itself in the conversation with region contenders.

“We control our destiny,” Eubanks said.