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Mustangs, Rebels to head to Columbus
Kenzie Ergle
Mustangs shortstop Kenzie Ergle (center) is mobbed at the plate by her teammates after socking a homer against Tift County on Oct. 18. - photo by Birk Herrath

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON— South Effingham and Effingham County produced super performances while winning their respective softball super regionals.

Now the Mustangs and Rebels will be swinging for more super efforts at the Class AAAAAA State Softball Championships in Columbus.

The eight-team, double-elimination tournament gets underway Wednesday and the local schools — SEHS ranked fifth and ECHS sixth by ScoreAtlanta — won’t be easing into the action.

The Rebels (26-5) meet top-ranked Pope (31-1) at 3 p.m. and the Mustangs (25-5) tangle with second-ranked Lassiter (25-5) at 5 p.m.

Other first-round games are Houston County (24-5) vs. River Ridge (15-12) and Apalachee (27-3) vs. Veterans (17-10).

Weather permitting, the championship will be decided Saturday.

“(Getting to Columbus) is what every single softball program strives to do,” SEHS coach Adam Newland said. “We’re certainly not done. We have more work to do.”

South punched its ticket to Columbus by winning three times Oct. 18-19 while hosting a four-team group that included Tift County, Woodward Academy and Dunwoody.

The Mustangs seemingly never stopped running around the bases, blowing out Tift 16-1, Dunwoody 14-0 and Tift again 9-0.

SEHS had 32 hits and reached base 22 other times (12 walks, four hit batsmen and six errors) during the three games.

“We swung it really well these couple of days — there’s no doubt about that,” Newland said. “All credit to the kids. They went in there with a good approach and executing their plan.”

Senior Hailey Roman, who had struggled at the plate because of an injured shoulder, went 4-for-8 with seven RBIs during the super regional.

Roman had help up and down the lineup. Leadoff batter Emma Darrow added six hits and drove in five runs. Whitney Thompson and Kenzie Ergle had six RBIs apiece. Ergle smacked a 3-run homer during an eight-run first inning against Dunwoody.

Pitcher Bailey Kendziorski allowed only six hits and one run during the three games. She pitched a one-hitter against Tift County in the clinching win.

“We’ve never been to Columbus, so we’re excited. We’re excited to go to state,” Roman said.

Effingham County came out of Covington unscathed as well despite being a No. 2 seed in a super regional hosted by Region 3 champion Alcovy.

The Rebels overpowered Thomas County Central 13-5 in the opener and held off Alcovy 5-4 in a winners’ bracket game before defeating Alcovy 11-3 for the title.

ECHS coach Brad Thompson said Caleigh Eubanks, Emma Reynolds, Shelby Aiken and Lauryn Wilson led the offensive attack to back up Rylee Mills’ pitching.

“They all hit it, so it was a good team effort,” Thompson said.

It will be Thompson’s ninth trip to Columbus. His first eight came as coach at Vidalia.

“It’s an electric atmosphere, one you’ll never forget, so we’re excited,” he said. “Like I told (my players), you can’t play for a championship unless you get there.”