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First-year coach Jesse Osborne has South Effingham High baseball ready to go
Jesse Osborne

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — Boxes from a shipment of baseball apparel and equipment cluttered the office of South Effingham coach/warehouse manager Jesse Osborne on a busy Friday afternoon.

“Sorry about the mess,” Osborne says with a laugh and a shoulder shrug.

It might be 45 degrees outside, but the high school baseball season is about to step into the batter’s box.

The Mustangs open their season Monday (Feb. 6) at home against Islands. Effingham County travels to Jesup for its first pitch against Wayne County on Tuesday (Feb. 7).

Osborne, an SEHS alum, takes over for coach Todd Eubanks, who left to coach at Woodland High after the 2022 season.

Osborne had been Eubank’s pitching coach for four years so he knows the players, knows the program, knows this is a team with potential. A team only a year removed from winning a region championship.

“It’s not that much of a transition, honestly,” Osborne said. “Coach Eubanks allowed me to do a lot. That was the big thing, (he said) I brought you in here to coach. I’m not going to micro-manage you. Tell me what you need and I’ll stay out of your way.”

But now Osborne sees another side in his new office. It’s the logistics, he said – ordering the apparel, planning practice, dealing with the whole picture.

According to Georgia High School Association rules, baseball team practices could begin Jan. 9. But workouts with smaller groups started a long time ago.

South has a 10-week program for pitchers that began in October. Groups of four gave batters a chance to see live pitching once a week in the offseason.

About three weeks ago, the players came together as a team. Fundamentals are stressed during weekdays. On Saturdays, Osborne expects to see the daily work executed in intrasquad scrimmages.

Osborne isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. He has seen differing offensive philosophies succeed. At SEHS, he played for coach Tony Kirkland, who rarely wanted to bunt.

At Armstrong State, Osborne played for coach Joe Roberts, who loved to bunt. Eubanks was a proponent of small ball as well.

“I felt prepared when I took over,” Osborne said. “I felt honored to have someone like coach Eubanks mentor me, playing for coach Kirkland and coach Roberts. I’ve been around a lot of good coaches. I think I’m well-rounded in (offensive strategy).”

Osborne says he looks forward to meshing with his own coaching staff. Former major league pitcher Jason Shiell, the father of Mustang pitcher/left fielder Maddox Shiell, takes over as the pitching coach.

Former SEHS and Savannah State University standout Turner Davis will handle the catchers and hitting. Osborne brought back Justin Merritt to coach the outfielders and hitting.

The Mustangs entered the final week of the regular season in a wild four-way tie for first place in the region. They beat Class 7A state champion Woodstock during the regular season, swept Region 4 champion Westlake in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament and took a game from 6A finalist Allatoona in the Sweet Sixteen before losing the best-of-three series two games to one.

South returns a strong nucleus from the 2022 team, including a deep pitching staff.

“This is a good group,” Osborne said. “A lot of these kids have matured and they’ve put in the work. They’re ready to see what happens.”