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ECHS-SEHS baseball rivalry returns this week
Eric McCombie
Effingham County's Eric McCombie makes his first appearance in the county baseball rivalry with South Effingham as the Rebels' head coach. Last year, McCombie was an assistant when ECHS won two of the three games against the Mustangs. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD – As an assistant baseball coach at Effingham County last season, Eric McCombie saw his first Effingham County-South Effingham series up close and personal.

The Rebels, who were nearly eliminated from postseason play, played spoiler and won two of the three games against the region-contending Mustangs.

South again comes in with the better record for the three-game rivalry series, but does that matter?

Game 1 was April 8 in Springfield, Game 2 today (April 10) in Guyton at 6 p.m. with the finale on Friday (April 12) in Springfield at 6.

The Rebels are 7-17, 3-9 in Region 2-6A play. The Mustangs are 13-11, 5-7 in the region.

“It’ll be a competitive series. It’ll be fun,” McCombie said, now ECHS’ head baseball coach. “It’s a good thing for the county and the baseball world around here.

“It’ll be the first taste of (the rivalry series) for some of these guys. Obviously, they know each other. They’ve been playing together and growing up together. That’s another aspect that makes this fun.”

McCombie said he loved the community fanfare. He said last year’s games had the largest crowds he has coached in front of since 2017 when he worked as a Savannah State assistant and the Tigers played at the University of Georgia.

Last season, for the fourth time in five years, the Rebels won the opener of the series. Righthander Caden Kessler dominated after a shaky first inning in a 5-1 win.

South evened the series in Game 2 with a 4-2 victory behind the pitching of Dru Futch.

The Mustangs led the rubber game 3-0 in the seventh inning, but couldn’t get the final three outs before ECHS posted a stunning six-run uprising.

“We just had to finish," Mustangs coach Jesse Osborne said after the 2023 series. “We had the win. Three outs. We played well enough to win up to that point. That's baseball. It comes down to the last three outs and you have to execute and make plays and we didn't.”

During the last two seasons, the rivalry series is tied at three games apiece. SEHS leads in the aggregate score of the six games, 31-30.

Heading into the series, the Mustangs were in fourth place in the region standings, two games ahead of fifth-place Effingham County. Both teams have one remaining region series after this week. SEHS will play Grovetown (9-17, 3-12) and ECHS will play Lakeside (5-15, 3-12).

“I know we’re outside looking in right now, but honestly I haven’t looked at the standings because if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter,” McCombie said.