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ECHS’ rally falls short against Statesboro at GSU
ECHS Baseball vs. Statesboro
Effingham County and Statesboro players and coaches shake hands after the Blue Devils' hard-fought 11-10 victory over the Rebels last Thursday night at Georgia Southern's J.I. Clements Stadium. Proceeds of the game benefitted the Simmons Strong Foundation in honor of Jim Simmons who died of cancer in 2021. Simmons coached at both schools. (Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


STATESBORO – Effingham County’s baseball team traveled to a special setting Feb.22 but was hounded by common problems.

Five Rebel errors, three walks, two hit batsmen added up to eight unearned runs during an 11-10 loss to Statesboro at J.I. Clements Stadium on the campus of Georgia Southern University.

The game was part of an annual series played between ECHS and Statesboro to raise monies for the Simmons Strong Foundation to fight against cancer.

The foundation was named after Jim Simmons, who coached at both schools before succumbing to cancer in 2021.

The schools play a three-game set – one game in Statesboro, one in Springfield and one at Georgia Southern’s pristine stadium with a capacity of 3,000.

“I was excited when we got this locked in (to the schedule) for our guys,” Rebels coach Eric McCombie said. “Playing in a facility like this is just awesome. If you want to play Division I baseball and high-level baseball, this is what you dream about. Georgia Southern does a great job. I just wish we could have played better and gotten a win.”

ECHS (2-6) won two of the three games, including a wild 5-4 contest on Ayden Roeser’s walk-off, run-scoring single in the seventh inning on Friday night. Junior righthander Dylan Huntley pitched five scoreless, no-hit innings while striking out nine. He left with a 3-0 lead but did not get the decision.

It was a nice rebound for the Rebels after Thursday’s game at J.I. Clements. ECHS couldn’t have started better. Lead-off walks to Kyle Thomas and Newton Kieffer, a triple by Caden Kessler and a single by Aiden Garcia produced a 3-0 Rebel lead four batters into the game.

But ECHS surrendered five runs in the bottom of the first. Four runs were unearned after a misplayed bunt. The Blue Devils’ lone hit of the inning was a flyball lost in the stadium lights, resulting in a two-run double.

“You score three runs in the top of the first and you feel good about yourself, but in the bottom of the inning, two pitches and they have two baserunners (after getting hit with pitches) and it just went south from there,” McCombie said. “The last game we gave up five earned runs. It’s been an issue. There’s a lot of inexperienced guys and we’re trying to get them up to speed. We’ll continue to work.”

Statesboro struck for four more runs in the fourth. Two more bunts were misplayed along with a bouncer back to the mound. The Blue Devils also took advantage of a passed ball and a balk in the inning to move runners as their lead ballooned to 11-4.

ECHS made a strong comeback with three runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Doubles by Kieffer and Q King highlighted the fifth-inning rally and two-out hits by Thomas, Kieffer, Kessler and Garcia squeezed Statesboro’s advantage to one, 11-10, in the sixth

Kessler finished with three hits, including a double and triple, and drove in four runs and scored three times. Keiffer and Garcia had two hits apiece. Garcia also had two RBIs.

Reliever Ryan Douberly quieted the Blue Devils’ offense with three scoreless innings (five strikeouts) to help the comeback effort.

ECHS out-hit Statesboro 9-5.

On Friday, Roeser went 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs.

“I think our offense is going to be pretty good,” McCombie said. “Defensively, we have to get better. On the mound, if we can force teams to hit, we’ll win the majority of our games. The guys didn’t quit so that’s a good thing.”