By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – After not playing for 11 days, Effingham County softball coach Brad Thompson worried about his team being a little rusty.
But last week, ECHS looked like a well-oiled machine. The Rebels started the week with a 9-1 win over Lakeside on Sept. 5.
They followed with four more victories – including a sweep of region opponent Brunswick 15-0, 18-10 and 21-0 – to extend their winning streak to seven games and take over first place in Region 2-6A by a half game over South Effingham.
Since the threat of Hurricane Idalia, ECHS has outscored its opponents 74-1.
For opponents, the Rebels are the hurricane.
"We've been working on getting consistency in our swings and I think it showed today barrelling up some balls like we did," said Thompson after the Lakeside win. "It's a matter of seeing live pitching and that's difficult with all the time we've had off. It's hard to hit against our pitchers every day. (Our hitters) are ready to see other pitchers whenever they get the opportunity. Some of them answered the bell today."
At the start of the season, ECHS was an enigma after graduating key seniors off a 27-win team that advanced to Columbus – site of the eight-team state championship softball tournament.
But if an 11-2 record (8-1 in region play) hasn't convinced you the Rebels have successfully reloaded, their two wins over Grovetown (both by eight runs) should serve as solid evidence.
The Warriors showed their wares by threatening to sweep a doubleheader from South Effingham last week, winning the first game 13-5, before the Mustangs posted a late rally to earn a split.
ECHS lost one game to Grovetown, 2-1, in the three-game set.
"One of my worries with this team is when you handle business with somebody, you don't take the next game seriously," said Thompson, whose team's resume includes a 2-1 win over defending Class 2A state champion Jeff Davis.
The Rebels are ranked seventh in Class 6A by ScoreAtlanta.
ECHS looked business-like in dismantling Lakeside, a team with a 7-6 record. Gracie LaFleur led the 12-hit attack with a 3-for-3 outing and five runs batted in.
Abbi Jones added three hits and ended the game with an RBI single.
Sophomore pitcher Ansleigh Giordano surrendered just three hits and one unearned run over five innings.
One of the highlights of the day was Gabbi Hill's long drive that cleared the left-field fence by 25 feet but just drifted foul. Hill was Effingham County's JV Player of the Year last season.
"We want to stay consistent, that's something we talk about all the time," Thompson said. "We can't just flip a switch on and off and line up against South or line up in a super-regional or hopefully be in Columbus and expect to play well. That switch doesn't just flip on and off. It has to be on all the time."