By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SAVANNAH — A year ago, South Effingham first baseman/pitcher Nick Milbrandt played in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Annual All-Star Classic so he had an idea of what to expect June 14 at Grayson Stadium.
“Most of the guys knew each other and there were a whole lot of smiles. We had a lot of fun,” Milbrandt saod after the county all-stars breezed past the city stars 12-2 in the sixth-annual event.
Six local players — Mustangs Milbrandt, Aaron Benton and Hunter Walthour and Effingham County’s Matthew Ford, Trent Newberry and J.D. Coleman — along with SEHS pitching coach Jesse Osborne — participated.
And the locals did their part running up the score for the county while combining for five hits, three runs, two RBIs, a double and two stolen bases in 12 at-bats.
Milbrandt, the Region 2-AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year, also pitched a scoreless inning and struck out two.
“I like playing with guys throughout the region, guys you grew up playing with in travel ball,” Coleman said. “You’ve been around these guys all your life so it’s easy to be out here. It was an awesome experience.”
Certainly, the county players had a little more fun than the overmatched city players. Seven of the first 11 county batters reached base and five scored before the second out of the second inning.
Milbrandt, who often had a courtesy runner during the high school season, stole a base in the third inning.
“I thought I’d try something different,” said Milbrandt, smiling.
It was 12-1 in the seventh when Richmond Hill’s shortstop Leighton Finley took the fun up a notch, perhaps taking a page from the stadium occupants, the Savannah Bananas.
Finley propped a paper cup over his nose, looking as if he had the snout of a hog, and fielded ground balls in warmups before the inning started. He kept the joke going as the inning started for real.
Of course, the first batter hit a grounder toward Finley who stayed in costume and easily fielded the grounder cleanly before throwing to first for the out.
“He was just joking around,” said Milbrandt, who pitched the seventh inning. “(Finley) wanted to try something funny. He was just having a good time.
“That’s all that matters.”
And if he booted the ball?
“Well, we were up 12-1 and he made the play. I’m not complaining,” said Milbrandt, who went 2-for-2 at the plate along with the 1-2-3 inning from the mound.
Benton was 1-for-3 with an RBI and stolen base. Newberry was 1-for-2 with an RBI; Coleman 1-for-2 with a double. Walthour was 0-for-2 and Ford 0-for-1.
At the end of the game, many players remained hovering around the Grayson Stadium infield for friends and family to take pictures.
“You get to honor God and you’re honoring your friends and family to play in a game like this,” said Milbrandt, who will be a senior during the next school year. “I’m hoping I can get invited again next year.”