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Hot-hitting Mustangs hit the road
South Effingham to meet Oconee County in quarterfinals
05.20 sehs-roberts
John Roberts and the South Effingham offense are averaging more than 11 runs per game through the first two rounds of the Class AAA state baseball playoffs. - photo by File photo

One of baseball’s oldest adages is that good pitching will beat good hitting.

The Class AAA state quarterfinal between South Effingham and Oconee County  could put that axiom to the test again.

The Mustangs and the Warriors open their series today at 4 p.m. at Arrowhead Park with the first game of a doubleheader.

While the Mustangs’ pitching and defense have been solid in their first two playoff series, their offense has been relentless.  The Mustangs have won their first four playoff games and have scored 45 runs. They have amassed 47 hits.

And the damage has been done up and down the lineup. South Effingham coach Tony Kirkland keeps a chart, giving hitters for points such things as two-strike hits, two-out hits, going the other way and hits with runners in scoring position.

“They have blasted my points chart out of the water,” he said. “I have four 100-point member. I have only had that happen one other time.”

Leadoff man Zach Anderson is 7-for-13 and has scored nine runs. No. 3 John Roberts has 15 homers and has four doubles among his six postseason hits. Chris Zittrouer, the cleanup hitter, is 7-for-16 with six RBIs.

Stephen Vaughn and Marcus Zeigler, batting in the sixth and seventh holes, combined to go 7-for-13 with five RBIs in the sweep of Henry County. Jace Daley, the No. 9 hitter, was 3-for-5 and scored five runs in the first-round sweep of Westover.

“This group has really done it,” Kirkland said.

Roberts leads the Mustangs in average (.475), homers and RBIs (58).  He has a slugging percentage of 1.069.

“Roberts has 200 points,” Kirkland said after the Westover series. “I never thought anyone would touch (Josh) Reddick’s 198.”

Reddick, a former South Effingham star, is now playing for the Boston Red Sox’ high Single-A in the California League.

Against this lineup, the Warriors are likely to throw Derek Varnadore and John Newsome. Going into their second-round series against Westminster, Varnadore was 8-3 with a 1.75 ERA. Newsome was 6-0 with a 0.94 ERA and 98 strikeouts.

The Warriors (25-4) have won 10 straight and have not allowed more than five runs in any game during that stretch. They have three shutouts.

But the Mustangs — with seniors hitting in the second, third and fourth spots — are a veteran team. They’ve been to two Final Fours in their first three seasons, and Oconee County stands in their way of reaching the semifinals for a third time.

“The nucleus of this team was my nucleus a year ago,” Kirkland said.