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SEHS survives unscripted drama in baseball opener
Peyton Kirby
South Effingham first baseman Peyton Kirby (42) awaits a pickoff throw as Perry's Kameron Vandersee (12) dives back safely. Perry edged the Mustangs 6-5 Saturday at the Coastal Georgia Invitational. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


GUYTON – South Effingham scripted how it would play Wednesday’s season-opening baseball game against Screven County.

But you know the saying about the best laid plans.

The Mustangs let a lead slip away in the seventh inning, fell behind in the ninth only to rally in the bottom of the ninth to claim an unscripted 5-4 victory at Tony Kirkland Field.

Ty Cantaline stepped on home plate with the winning run without much fanfare after Dru Futch’s bases-loaded walk ended the three-hour affair.

“We shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with,” SEHS coach Jesse Osborne said. “We got into a situation at the end of the ball game where we burned all our subs and the seventh inning was elusive.”

With three games on tap in the competitive Coastal Georgia Invitational against Ringgold (34-9 a year ago), North Forsyth (22-14) and Perry (27-9) over the weekend, Osborne used the opener with Screven County as a bullpen workout for his pitching staff.

He slated seven pitchers to pitch an inning apiece and liberally subbed batters to get everyone at least one plate appearance.

Through six innings, six Mustang pitchers combined on a one-hit shutout and South held a 2-0 advantage.

But pitcher No. 7 struggled to find the strike zone. An eighth and ninth pitcher were summoned but not before Screven received four straight walks with two out to force in two runs and tie the game.

In the ninth, the Gamecocks took the lead by parlaying an infield single, two walks, a sacrifice fly and wild pitch into two more runs to take a 4-2 lead.

South got out of the inning with the help of its 10th pitcher of the game, Nick Cooper, a senior infielder who hadn’t pitched in high school.

“We always joke about if we were ever in that situation we’ll call on Nick. He’s our do-everything guy,” Osborne said. “He’s a kid who can throw strikes.”

Trailing 4-2, South produced a rally typical of the night. An error and a walk put the tying runners on base. Cantaline followed with a single to load the bases.

Cooper then doubled inside the third-base line to score two and two batters later, Futch’s walk forced in the game-winner.

“Offensively, we weren’t dialed in. It’s hard to get in a rhythm when you’re subbing players in and out,” Osborne said. “When you do a whole staff game, you have to score more runs.”

South left 11 on base, nine in scoring position.

Dalton Redmond had two hits. Peyton Kirby went 1-for-4 with a run batted in.

During the weekend, the Mustangs won one of their three games in the round-robin tournament. Hayden Peavy pitched a one-hitter over six innings in an 8-0 victory over North Forsyth.

SEHS (2-2) lost to Ringgold 4-2 and Perry 6-5.

Futch went 3-for-3 and Cantaline had two hits against Perry.

Osborne said the tournament was a good early-season test for his club.

“You find out a lot about your guys,” Osborne said. “You learn who you can count on and who wants to be in those big situations. We saw quality teams, quality arms, and you put guys in situations and figure out what we can do as a team.”

SEHS returns to action at Islands on Feb. 20, at Southeast Bulloch on Wednesday (Feb. 21) and will be back home against Islands High on Friday (Feb. 23).