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Region 2-AAAAAA title on line this week

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Within four days, South Effingham and Effingham County assured the Region 2-AAAAAA softball championship would remain in the county.

Both teams swept doubleheaders from previous region leader Grovetown and now it’s just the Mustangs and Rebels with a chance to hoist the 2022 trophy.

And, wouldn’t you know, SEHS (19-4, 14-2 region) and ECHS (20-3, 13-2) will meet in their final region game Thursday night in Guyton.

South won the first meeting 3-0 on Sept. 13 with the Rebels getting even in a 1-0 10-inning thriller six days later.

ECHS won the region title last season. SEHS won in 2020.

“The girls are aware of what’s ahead of them,” Rebels coach Brad Thompson said. “Obviously, you want to be a champion every opportunity you can get, especially if you’re playing right down the road for it.”

There is one scenario that could trip up the winner-take-all Thursday matchup. An ECHS doubleheader loss to Glynn Academy (10-12) and a South single-game win over Lakeside Evans (8-12) — both local teams playing on Oct. 4 — would give the Mustangs an insurmountable two-game lead heading into the region finale.

But let’s just say you wouldn’t want to go to Vegas and play that hunch.

SEHS, ranked seventh in Class AAAAAA by Score-Atlanta, has won 17 of its last 18 games and during a current five-game winning streak has outscored its opponents 56-12.

During the binge,  the Mustangs avenged a 5-3 loss to Grovetown on Aug. 24 with an 11-1 and 9-2 shellacking of the Warriors on Sept. 24.

ECHS, the eighth-ranked Class AAAAAA team, entered the week a winner of nine of its last 10 games. The last two games in that streak were 9-0 and 10-6 victories over Grovetown on Sept. 27. The Warriors, once 10-1 in the region and in first place, suddenly slipped to 10-5 and can’t rise out of third.

“These were big wins for us,” Thompson said. “For some reason, we weren’t ready to play the first time (against Grovetown, a 7-5 loss on Sept. 7) and they beat us so these games were on our mind.”

Thompson said he doesn’t want to look ahead. The state playoff format has changed this year with each of the eight region winners hosting a four-team, double-elimination super regional tournament Oct. 18-21.

Region 2’s second-place team would travel to Covington, where Region 3 champion Alcovy (19-4) would host. 

The eight winners advance for a double-elimination tournament in Columbus on Oct. 26-29.

“I know it sounds cliche, but we just have to take care of our own business,” Thompson said. “You can drive yourself crazy looking at the brackets and trying to predict all the matchups. (ECHS) won the (region) championship last year and got Buford in the second round so the matchups don’t always work out for you.”