SPRINGFIELD — Head coach Chris Johnson and his team were rewarded for a long day of labor Friday night.
After working several hours to get their soggy field in shape to play and selling steak dinners as a fundraiser, the Effingham County Rebels swept a doubleheader from Evans 3-2 and 10-0.
“We needed to play,” Johnson said emphatically after the twin bill.
The Rebels were eager to get back on track after dropping their previous four games, including an 8-2 decision against Evans on Feb. 28.
“After not playing well last week in Augusta, we were looking forward to having Monday through Thursday to practice,” Johnson said. “We weren’t able to get one day on the field (because of rainy weather) but — it’s a credit to the kids — we worked indoors everyday two and a half hours as hard as we could go.”
The Rebels were guilty of uncharacteristic fielding and mental blunders during their skid that included a 14-1 loss to Greenbrier and a 10-0 setback against Winder-Barrow.
“We talked about all the mistakes we’ve made up to this point in time,” Johnson said. “Fortunately, the kids stepped up in a really good way and we’ve just got to keep that going.”
Despite the recent losses, exuberance and optimism abounded in the Rebels’ dugout.
“We spent a lot of time talking about that this week because it hasn’t been that way and that’s not how we do things,” Johnson said. “That’s a credit to the kids and the leadership.”
Effingham County was dominant in the nightcap against Evans, seizing a 6-0 lead after just three innings.
Chrys Hawkins and Zach Garcia got the Rebels off to the great start by combining for three RBI in the first frame.
Blake Hendrix paced Effingham County with three hits. He and Kaden Stone matched Garcia’s RBI total of two.
The winning pitcher was Josh Bassett, who was in total control of the Knights throughout the contest. He surrendered just three hits and didn’t issue a walk. He fanned four.
Friday’s opener was a pitching duel. Effingham County’s Merritt Evans hurled three hitless frames before handing the ball and a 2-0 lead to Garrett Miller.
Miller worked the final four innings, surrendering two runs (one earned) on three hits with seven strikeouts.
Dustin Johnson and Justin Wilcox each delivered run-scoring hits in the opening inning. Johnson produced another run in the sixth inning with a sacrifice fly that plated Timmy Burnsed.
With two weeks left before the start of Region 2-AAAAAA play, Johnson is still tinkering with his lineup.
“We still believe in all of them,. We’ve just got to find the right mix,” Johnson said. “This time last year we pretty much knew what our lineup was going to be. With a whole new crew this year, we’re still trying to find it.
“They are working hard and positions are still up for grabs. If we have to work on a platoon system, so be it.”
The Rebels (4-8) lost 8-4 at Statesboro on Monday. They will host the Blue Devils today at 6 p.m. and visit them against at 6 p.m. Friday.