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ECHS baseball plays Lassiter tough before falling 5-4
ECHS Baseball Coach Eric McCombie
Effingham County baseball coach Eric McCombie (No. 39) pays a visit to the mound to talk with Rebel pitcher Luke Edwards (No. 16) during a game with Lassiter on Saturday afternoon. Lassiter won 5-4. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County baseball coach Eric McCombie didn’t like what he was seeing on the field and it was just the first week of the season.

McCombie voiced his concerns.

About 12 hours later, he saw a Rebel group with a new attitude.

ECHS played highly regarded Lassiter nearly on even terms but fell short 5-4 on Saturday afternoon in the Coastal Georgia Invitational.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys and we’re trying to learn how to play, learn how to win,” McCombie said. “The way we played today, that’s how I envision us playing. The competitiveness we showed today is who I think we’re going to be.”

The Rebels’ first-year coach watched his group struggle in a 13-5 loss to Perry on Friday night. The pitching staff combined to walk 12 batters and hit six more batters. The defense committed three errors.

ECHS trailed 9-1 before batting in the third inning.

The Rebels lost the season opener against Richmond Hill 7-1 (on Feb. 13), then had only four hits in a 2-1 setback to Islands last Thursday.

But against Lassiter, ECHS answered the Trojans’ three-run top of the second inning with three straight two-out hits to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.

Lassiter again threatened to pull away with runs in the third and fourth innings, but the Rebels manufactured a run in the fourth to cut the deficit in half.

ECHS had a second-and-third, one-out opportunity in the sixth inning to tie the game but couldn’t score. In the seventh, Lassiter held on with a defensive gem in left field before Q King’s long drive was caught on the warning track to end the game.

On the pitching side, McCombie liked Dylan Huntley’s ability to rebound. Huntley struggled on Friday night in his start against Perry, but he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning with two strikeouts against Lassiter.

“I think these guys are fighting for each other,” McCombie said. “I liked the competitiveness. That’s what we’ve been lacking. We’re going to build on this.”

The Rebels won’t have to wait too long for a chance to get their first win of the season. They’ll have a three-game series with Statesboro (Feb. 19, 22 and 23) with the proceeds of the series going to benefit the Simmons Strong Foundation in the fight against cancer. The foundation honors the legacy of Jim Simmons who coached at both Effingham County and Statesboro before succumbing to cancer in 2021.

The third game of the series will be played at Georgia Southern University’s J.I. Clements Stadium.

“It’ll be a fun experience for the kids,” McCombie said.