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Coach expects Lady Mustangs to use playoff disappointment as 2021 fuel
Bailey Kendziorski
Lady Mustangs pitcher Bailey Kendziorski leaves Oct. 28's Game 3 against the Lady Wolves in the fourth inning. She was in the circle for 62 of the 66 outs South Effingham recorded in the series. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
It's disappointing but, you know, we are a young team.
Lady Mustangs head coach Jessica Evans

GUYTON — South Effingham experienced the zenith and nadir of its softball season within just a few hours last week.

 One day after winning a 10-inning thriller in Game 2 of their third-round Class AAAAAA playoff series against Buford on Oct. 27, the Lady Mustangs (28-4-1) fell to the Lady Wolves (32-6) in the decisive contest. The 10-1 loss kept them from advancing to Columbus for the championship games.

“It’s disappointing but, you know, we are a young team,” South Effingham head coach Jessica Evans said immediately following the season-ending defeat. “I’ll be honest. It showed today.”

The Lady Mustangs (28-4-1) struggled in every aspect in the series finale. Mental errors on the base paths and in the field cost them dearly.

“To be honest, we fell apart on defense and I hadn’t seen that all season,” Evans said. “For it to show up on the last game, it stinks. But it is what it is.

“That’s all you can say.”

The Lady Wolves, meanwhile, showed no ill effects from dropping Game 2 5-3. They won the opener 4-2.

“BK (freshman pitcher Bailey Kendziorski) — we wore her out,” Evans said. “When you’ve been riding that one kid, you know. Shoot! She had heck of a season. She is one of the biggest reasons we were there — her and (catcher) Caraline (Stone). 

“Like I said at the beginning of the year, it was a battery and they worked well together, even today, but after they’ve seen you nine, ten or 11 times — at-bats — eventually you are going to hit a pitcher.”

Taylor Malvin ripped Kendziorski’s first offering of Game 3 for a double, sparking Buford to a 2-0 first-inning lead. The Lady Wolves went on to collect 13 hits in just five innings after being limited to 17 base knocks in 17 frames in the first two games.

“They just caught up to us,” Evans said.

Kendziorski figured prominently on offense in Game 2. She started the 10th inning on second base because the contest was knotted 2-2 after nine frames. 

After Whitney Thompson reached on a fielder’s choice and Avery Roddenberry singled to load the bases, Kendziorski scored the go-ahead run when Mattie Turner was hit by a pitch.

Thompson and Rodderberry also scored during the decisive uprising.

In Buford’s 10th at-bat — it was designated as the home team — Kendziorski retired the first two hitters on grounders. She then gave up an RBI single before second baseman snagged a popup to end the game, setting off an infield celebration.

Unfortunately, there was no joy for South Effingham or its large crowd at the end of Game 3. Evans described the loss “as a kick in the gut.”

“That’s exactly what it felt like,” she said. I still feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.”

After Game 3, Evans encouraged her players to use the setback as motivation for next season.

She said, “I was not proud of the finish. I would have never wanted to say I was proud of that. You lose a ballgame 5-4 today? OK!.

“(The 10-1 loss) I’m not proud of but that’s got to be that burning, that kick in the gut right there to keep you pushing and saying, ‘That’s not going to happen again.”

The Lady Mustangs, the Region 2-AAAAAA champions, will lose three seniors — Stone, Alex Brown and Annabelle Sheley. 

Buford ended up third in Columbus. Lassiter, Pope and Creekview finished first, second and fourth, respectively.