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Mills' return sparks Rebels to extra-innings win over Mustangs
Rylee Mills
The home plate umpire signals for South Effingham pitcher Bailey Kendziorski to deliver the ball to Effingham County batter Rylee Mills (2) during a Sept. 13 game at Rebel Field. Mills had to leave the game early because of an elevated heart rate. The catcher is Jaden Burns. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Whitney Thompson
South Effingham third baseman Whitney Thompson sets to throw out a hitter at first base during a Sept. 13 game against Effingham County. She blasted a three-run homer during the contest at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — Effingham County pitcher Rylee Mills was forced to leave her previous softball game against South Effingham early because of a health issue. Monday, she didn’t mind putting in extra time.

“I’m feeling great now,” she said after holding SEHS to just four hits in 10 exciting innings while leading the Rebels to an epic 1-0 win.

Six days earlier, Mills came out of a scoreless game with the Mustangs in the fifth inning. South went on to win 3-0.

“I had a high heart rate and it made me nauseous and I had to come off the field,” Mills said. “I saw a doctor that night and was cleared and came home that night.”

Suddenly, the Rebels’ playoff hopes are looking healthy again too. ECHS (12-2, 8-2) closed in on Grovetown (10-6-1, 7-1) and the Mustangs (14-4, 9-2) in the Region 2-AAAAAA standings.

But it wasn’t easy.

“That was a spectacular performance by both pitchers,” Rebels coach Brad Thompson said. “We finally broke through against Bailey (Kendziorski). …

“Rylee hit her spots. The night she got sick, she was pitching very well, too. That’s what you get out of these two teams — two quality programs, quality girls.”

Monday, the battle raged through the regulation seven innings and two more extra frames.

The teams began the 10th inning with a runner placed at second base. In the top of the inning, Lauryn Wilson’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed and Emma Reynolds scored the game’s only run.

In the bottom of the inning, South sacrificed its runner to third base. Another bunt followed. Reynolds, at third base, fielded it and forced the baserunner into a rundown before making a snap throw to Olivia Morgan, who applied the tag after hustling over from shortstop to thwart the scoring chance.

It was the third time Mills pitched out of a jam with a runner at third base and less than two outs Monday night.

“It was a crazy game,” Mills said. “We had to keep each other up and have each other’s back. It was a big team game.”

SEHS, which had a 12-game winning streak snapped, produced similar efforts to keep the game tied. Kendziorski pitched out of jams in the fourth and seventh innings when ECHS had runners reach third.

Mustang outfielders Peighton Capwell, Madison Mills and Hailey Roman took turns making dramatic catches late in the game to prevent potential damage.

“(Bailey’s) been throwing great and obviously Rylee Mills pitched great,” SEHS coach Adam Newland said. “It was an awesome pitchers’ duel. We just have to do a little more to back (Bailey) up.”

Kendziorski kept the Rebels at bay in the Sept. 13 meeting. She didn’t allow a runner past second base while finishing with a four-hitter.

Mills matched zeroes for 4 2/3 innings. But with two outs in the fifth, Izzy Wilkins singled and Emma Darrow drew a 3-1 count before health problems forced Mills from the game.

Darrow eventually walked and Whitney Thompson lifted a three-run homer over the center-field fence.

Thompson said seeing Mills leave the game was an emotional moment. The two girls have played together on several travel ball teams growing up.

“I was thinking of Rylee in my prayers because I didn’t know what was happening,” Thompson said. “But the game goes on. I was just thinking ‘hit the ball.’ Get me and my team through this.”