By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – South Effingham lost two baseball games Saturday, including an 8-4 extra-inning heartbreaker to Lassiter in the final game of the Coastal Georgia Invitational, but gained some encouragement for the 2023 season.
“Lassiter is an Elite Eight, Final Four team (in the state tournament) every year and we’re looking at it as we went toe to toe with them,” Mustangs coach Jesse Osborne said.
Often learned lessons overshadow wins and losses at the start of baseball seasons and Osborne scheduled three 20-win teams from a year ago to test his squad which lost some key seniors but remains loaded with talent.
SEHS knocked off Ringgold (20-14 in 2022) 3-2 on Friday night before losing to North Forsyth (21-12 in 2022) 3-2 on Saturday morning.
South’s marquee game of the weekend came against Lassiter, which won 27 games and went to the Class 6A Final Four last season. Pope won the state championship by winning 24 of its final 25 games. The one loss – to Lassiter.
Earlier Saturday, Lassiter played a 10 a.m. game at Richmond Hill and defeated the Wildcats 10-0, then boarded a bus and traveled to Guyton.
But the Mustangs (4-2) didn’t go down as easily as the evening’s temperature.
South had four hits and two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Lassiter flexed its muscle with Quinn Hughes’ two-run home run in the second inning and took a 4-2 lead with runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
The Mustangs responded with a two-out, two-run bottom of the seventh. Maddox Shiell drove in a run with a single, took second base on the throw to the plate and scored to tie the game when Dru Futch followed with an infield single.
Lassiter won the game in the ninth inning by parlaying a walk, two hit batsmen and three errors with two timely hits and a run-scoring fielder’s choice.
The Mustangs could look back at missed opportunities and wonder “what if”. They had runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth inning and first and second with one out in the eighth but failed to advance the runners.
SEHS stranded seven on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Shiell, Futch and Aaron Benton each had two hits. The Mustangs out-hit Lassiter 9-6.
“If we execute some of those situations late, we’re walking away with a win,” Osborne said. “It’s certainly encouraging. This (three-game, round-robin tournament) was great for us. We saw good competition. Every (pitcher) we saw was great. It’s possible Lassiter could be a team we run into at the end of the year.
ECHS in Georgia Dugout tourney
Effingham County played competitively but lost all three games during its weekend round-robin action at the Georgia Dugout Club Tournament in Emerson.
The Rebels (2-3) led Class 7A Norcross by three runs in the seventh inning before falling 6-5 in the opener.
Sophomore Will Floyd had two hits and drove in two runs.
ECHS had a lead in the fourth inning before losing to North Cobb Christian 5-3 and stayed within striking distance of defending Class 6A champion Pope during a 3-0 defeat.