BRUNSWICK — Effingham County’s softball team is headed to the state tournament. Although its opponent is yet to be determined, what is determined is the Lady Rebels’ seed. Effingham enters the Class AAAA sectional tournament in Hampton as Region 3-AAAA’s No. 3 seed.
“It feels good to go to state. Hopefully, we will make it through,” ECHS coach Tesh Pace said. “I would have liked to be seeded higher, but we’re glad to be going to state.”
The Lady Rebels defeated Wayne County 2-1 on Tuesday at North Glynn Complex, but later lost 3-2 in eight innings to Evans to finish as the region’s No. 3 team. They qualified for the state tournament on Monday, by winning two of three games.
Against Wayne, Effingham only had two hits and had only three hits against Evans.
The sectionals don’t start until Oct. 19, so Pace said her Lady Rebels will be working on hitting in practice.
“Hitting, hitting and more hitting,” she said. “I was hoping our high would last through the season, but we’re just not making adjustments on our swing.”
The loss to Evans was the Lady Rebels’ second in as many days to the Lady Black Knights and just as difficult to swallow as the first loss.
Shelby Duff, who pitched a complete game earlier in the day against Wayne County, pitched seven shutout innings against Evans. Unfortunately for her, Evans’ Laura Brown also pitched seven shutout innings.
The game was decided in extra innings via the international tiebreaker rule, where teams start the inning with a runner on second base. Kelsey Donnelly started the eighth inning on second base. She advanced to third on Duff’s wild pitch and later scored on Laura Brown’s grounder to second base.
Tayor Jones, the inning’s first batter, hit a bouncer that hugged the left field foul line for a double. Effingham's left fielder Mackenzi Golden quickly scooped up the all and held Donnelly at third. Jones later scored off Jenny Shephard’s double to center field.
Shephard scored on Heather Raborn’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Effingham responded with two runs, but left a runner on second in the loss.
Golden started the inning on second base. She scored when Evans’ third baseman Jenny Shephard over threw a ball, which was hit by Emma Exley, to first base. Exley moved to second on a passed ball, to third on Tabby Douberly’s single and scored on a wild pitch.
Evans’ Brown settled down and retired the next two batters for the win.
“We hung in there, but we fell apart in the last inning,” Pace said. “Overall, we did a good job against Evans. They have two very strong pitchers and we saw them both in the tournament.”
Despite losing a close one in extra-innings, Effingham had a chance in the third inning to win, but failed to capitalize. With one out, Exley was on third and Douberly on second, but credit Brown for pitching out of the jam.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” Pace said. “These are the types of teams and pitchers we’ll see in sectionals. Hopefully, this will make us better.”
The third inning was the only inning Effingham had a base runner, until the eighth inning.
For Effingham, Duff pitched three perfect innings.
Duff earned the win to start the day against Wayne County, allowing only three hits and striking out nine. She was dominant in the seventh inning with the game on the line, striking out the side.
Despite the win, Effingham had a hard time hitting pitcher Lauren Yeargan. The Lady Rebels only had two hits, but costly errors, walks and a hit batter earned the win.
With the game tied 1-1 and the bases loaded in the third, Whitney Smith was hit by a pitch with two outs, scoring Kayla Calhoun, who reached on a single.
Wayne County got on the board first when Miranda Martinez scored off Calhoun’s error in the first inning. Calhoun rebounded to make several stops later in the game.
Effingham responded with a run in the first when Marie Fogle crossed the plate off a Wayne County error.
WCHS 100 000 0 — 1 3 2
ECHS 101 000 x — 2 2 2
W — Shelby Duff (17-2). L — Lauren Yeargan.
Leading hitters: WC: Miranda Martinez, 1-3, R; Lauren Yeargan, 1-3; Hillary Pulos, 1-3. EC: Duff, 1-1, SAC; Kayla Calhoun, 1-3, 2B, R.
Evans 000 000 03 — 3 5 1
ECHS 000 000 02 — 2 3 0
W — Laura Brown. L — Shelby Duff (17-3).
Leading hitters: Evans: Taylor Jones, 1-4, 2B, R; Brown, 1-3, RBI; Jenny Shephard, 1-4, 2B, R, RBI Heather Raborn, 1-2, RBI, SAC, BB. EC: Emma Exley, 1-3, R; Tabby Douberly 2-3.