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Ninth-inning blast propels Mustangs into Elite Eight
Noah Hollis
A jubilant Noah Hollis is greeted by Mustangs coach Todd Eubanks after socking a two-run homer in the ninth-inning of Thursday's decisive game against Lee County. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON -- Junior Noah Hollis smacked a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give South Effingham a dramatic 9-7 victory over visiting Lee County on Thursday in the second round of the Class AAAAAA state baseball playoffs.

The Mustangs (26-9) won the best-of-three series two games to one and advanced to the Elite Eight against Pope High School from Marietta. Pope (27-9) was a 5-3 winner over Buford to win its series 2-1.

The SEHS-Pope series begins with a doubleheader in Guyton on Tuesday with a deciding third game, if necessary, on Wednesday.

A roller coaster day of highs and lows and twists and turns ended with the Mustangs joyfully ahead at the finish line. Hollis's second home run of the series made reliever Hunter Walthour a winner after pitching out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings.

Sophomore righthander Avery Sikes, getting a rare start after No. 3 starter Nick Duke suffered a knee injury in Game 1, pitched well and held a 7-3 lead with one out and two on before leaving in the seventh inning.

But down to their last strike, the Trojans tied the game in stunning fashion on Cooper Ray's grand slam. Lee had the potential winning run on second base later in the seventh inning and on third in the eighth but couldn't get another big hit.

SEHS had the bases loaded in the eighth but failed to score.

But in the ninth, with two out and Maddox Shiell on second, Hollis connected with a no-doubt blast over the left-field wall to begin a wild celebration at home plate.