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Rebels playing well in all phases
Chris Johnson
Rebels coach Chris Johnson said his team is playing with confidence. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

HINESVILLE — Effingham County baseball coach Chris Johnson hopes the shot of confidence from the last five games can carry over to the next five weeks.

The Rebels (9-3) opened their Region 2-AAAAAA slate with a three-game sweep of Bradwell Institute. Before that, ECHS swept a doubleheader from Evans.

Five games of highlights — outstanding starting pitching, power hitting, good defense, chances for everyone to play.

Now the Rebels will see what they’re made of — starting with a three-game series against region favorite Richmond Hill. Game 1 is Monday . Game 2 is Wednesday in Springfield with the series finale in Richmond Hill on Friday.

“Our kids have been playing with confidence,” Johnson said. “They’re playing for each other and doing the things we ask them to do. We have five weeks of great baseball ahead of us because everybody in this region is playoff caliber. We have to play above our heads, play every pitch and give ourselves a chance.”

Bradwell Institute is the one region team that isn’t playoff caliber. The Tigers are improving. They play on a beautiful artificial surface field, but they put up little resistance during the 11-0, 11-1, 8-0 series.

ECHS’ stress-free week even had its giddy moments Friday as the Bradwell public address announcer continually mispronounced Timmy Burnsed’s name as Timmy “Burneece.”

Johnson saw a lot of good things from his team. Josh Bassett pitched a complete-game shutout in the opener and Taylor Rigdon and freshman Caden Kessler threw three and four no-hit innings respectively while starting the next two games.

The Rebels combined starters allowed just five hits, no runs, struck out 19 and walked two in 14 innings.

“I feel really good about the pitching right now,” Johnson said. “They’re throwing strikes. Coach (Shane) Ramsey is doing a great job with them. They’ve been consistent, not walking many people and not giving teams unnecessary opportunities.”

Offensively, J.D. Coleman had a home run in the first game and Matthew Ford hit one out in the second game. Ford also blasted a homer in the series opener at Rebel Field.

 Several Rebels hit balls just shy of the fence on a chilly Friday.

Coleman finished the series 5-for-9 with six RBI.

But the competition steps up several notches this week against the Wildcats, who will be looking to turn things around this week after beginning region play losing two of three games to both Brunswick and Glynn Academy.

Then the Rebels play the Statesboro Blue Devils, who swept a three-game series from them last year. Then, South Effingham, which won two of three from ECHS last season.

Then Glynn Academy and Brunswick.

Johnson doesn’t want the Rebels to get too far ahead of themselves. 

“When I looked at this season, I thought Richmond Hill might be No. 1 and everybody would be chasing them,” Johnson said. “I still think it’s that way. They have a talented group and they’re coached really well.

“The thing about (our) guys is they bring it hard every day in practice, bring it hard in games and they believe in each other. If we can play like we’ve been playing, we have a chance.”