By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – South Effingham didn’t have to look far to find the perfect fit for its head baseball coaching vacancy.
Jesse Osborne, an alum and Mustangs assistant, will take over for Todd Eubanks, who left after the 2022 season to take a head coaching job at Woodland High School.
Osborne, who had been the pitching coach during Eubanks’ successful four-year tenure, was approved at the Effingham County School Board meeting June 8.
“I’m thankful coach Eubanks gave me the opportunity (as an assistant) and he groomed me for this moment. I think I’m ready,” Osborne said.
Osborne brings a plethora of local knowledge and experience. He came to South Effingham from Collins Hill as a sophomore and played for Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland before pitching at the next level for Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Four years ago, Osborne returned to South as the boys basketball coach. He offered to help Eubanks with baseball -- for free.
The price was right and it was an offer Eubanks couldn’t refuse. Together, Eubanks and Osborne compiled a 77-41 record in four years -– one season (2020) shortened to 13 games because of the threat of COVID-19.
The 2021 Mustangs tied a school single-season record with 27 wins while capturing the Region 2-AAAAAA crown and advancing to the state tournament quarterfinals.
Under Osborne’s tutelage, righthander Nick “Tiny” Milbrandt earned Region 2-AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year honors in 2021.
SEHS won 23 games this spring, entering the final week of the regular season in a four-way deadlock for first place in the region. The Mustangs stumbled and finished fourth, but knocked off Region 4 champion Westlake on the road in the first round of the state tournament.
Surprisingly, Eubanks saw an opportunity to get closer to family when the Woodland job opened.
“Things happened fast and I talked to (SEHS athletic director Nick) Smith to let him know I wanted the (Mustangs) job,” Osborne said. “I didn’t want to go without saying it.”
Osborne said he went through the process of applying and waiting.
He’s a proponent of Eubanks’ small-ball philosophy, manufacturing runs by putting baserunners in motion and forcing action with bunts and hit-and-runs.
“I’m a different person than coach Eubanks but, big picture, we’re not going to change a lot,” Osborne said. “If it’s not broken, why change?”
Osborne, who teaches health and physical education at SEHS, said he’ll continue to work as an assistant for the Mustangs’ softball team in the fall.
He said assistant Jason Shiell, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves and played several seasons in the big leagues, may take on a bigger role assisting with SEHS baseball pitchers.
“I’m excited. We have a good group of seniors coming back and we’ll be looking for young guys to step up,” Osborne said. “This school has had a strong baseball program over the years. I know I have big shoes to fill.”