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Milbrandt 'seems like the same Nick'
Nick MIlbrandt
South Effingham’s Nick Milbrandt delivers a second-inning pitch against Effingham County in the opener of their 2021 series at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — The repercussions of a football injury in the fall won’t linger into the spring for South Effingham.

Mustangs righthander Nick “Tiny” Milbrandt, the Region 2-AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year last season, has come back from an Oct. 15, 2021, knee injury and been cleared to play baseball.

“He’s been throwing live and doing well,” SEHS baseball coach Todd Eubanks said. “He has good balance, his velocity is up. He’s able to get off the mound (to field his position). He seems like the same Nick we’ve had.”

The return of Milbrandt to last season’s form would be a big relief for the Mustangs. The personable 6-foot-2, 240-pounder posted a 10-2 record with a 2.12 earned run average and 98 strikeouts. His 10 wins tied a school single-season record set by Jesse Osborne, now the SEHS pitching coach.

Milbrandt was also a contributor at first base. He hit .288 while batting fifth in the lineup.

But the Mustangs were collectively holding their breath when Milbrandt injured his left knee while blocking in punt formation in a football game against Benedictine.

Eubanks said Milbrandt missed the first three weeks of SEHS’ 10-week throwing program. Milbrandt also missed the final three games of the football season.

But at Noah Hollis’ recent signing celebration at SEHS, Milbrandt’s mother confirmed doctors cleared Tiny to play baseball.

“At first, we thought we might have him later in the year in a limited role, but now we’re seeing him in a starting role,” Eubanks said. “We’re taking it day by day but we’re encouraged. He’s been our No. 1 for the last two years and he’ll be in the rotation.

“(At first base), he’s been able to take ground balls and he’s getting his swings in the (batting) cage. At school, we’ve seen him run around and play basketball in PE. We’ve been told he’s cleared for everything.”

In accordance with Georgia High School Association rules, baseball team practice can begin Jan. 17, but coaches can work out limited groups in the offseason so Milbrandt’s rapid progress has been monitored.

With 10 starters returning (counting position players and pitchers), the Mustangs, 27-11 a year ago, should be contenders for a second straight region crown.

SEHS’ returning pitching rotation also includes Kaleb Johnson, who tossed a complete game in the thrilling, region-clinching 1-0 victory over Richmond Hill last spring.

“Pitching will be our strength and we’ll be good defensively,” Eubanks said. “On paper, we’re in great shape. If we can play like we did in the second half of the year, we’ll be fine.”

South tied a school single-season record in wins en route to the Class AAAAAA state Elite Eight before falling to Pope in a best-of-three series two games to one.

The Mustangs finished No. 8 in the final Class AAAAAA top 10 poll conducted by Score Atlanta last season.

South opens the 2022 baseball season Feb. 15 against Savannah Country Day.