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Lady Rebels slosh into second round of state tourney
The ball bounces in front of Effingham County right fielder Francie Gaskin as her sliding attempt to snag a foul boul in foul territory comes up a tad short against Lakeside-Evans on Oct. 9 - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

It wasn't easy but Effingham County’s softball team advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAAA tournament after sweeping Lakeside-Evans on Oct. 9.

Both games against Lakeside-Evans featured rain delays in the seventh inning and the second contest was called off because the field was deemed unplayable. 

Although the Lady Rebels held a 5-2 lead, the officials reverted back to the last completed inning in which was the score was 3-2.

Effingham County won the opener 5-3.

Lady Rebels coach Johnny Coleman said he was proud of his team’s ability to stay focused as it battled through multiple issues.

“It was very difficult,” Coleman said. “I know it was difficult for the girls, having to keep their minds on the game. Then in a split second’s notice, turning into a field maintenance team with the tarp and everything else.

“Keeping their mind on actually playing the way they did was impressive. They stayed focused. They played really hard.

“The outfield was pretty wet but we had some really great attempts on some fly balls where our outfielders were just diving and sliding through that mud. It’s really tough to stay in games like that mentally when you have so much extra going on.”

Multiple players stepped up offensively. Bailee Wilson and Addie Reynolds belted home runs in the opener, and Gracie Whaley and Francie Gaskin each had an RBI single in game two. 

“Bailee’s done really well all year,” Coleman said. “She did a great job pitching and hitting. Julia Carter did a good job pitching. It’s difficult to throw strikes and different pitches that they throw when the ball stays wet constantly and they did a job of sticking it out and working it out.

“It’s been a team effort all year. It seems like we have somebody new step up very game to bring us through. 

“Gracie Whaley did a really good job in that series. She had several big hits. Jayden Maennche had some clutch hits and some really good at bats that helped us a lot.

“Our defense played really well.”

Now the Lady Rebels turn their attention to Houston County, who they will host Wednesday at 4 p.m. in a doubleheader. The Lady Bears are 21-9 and scored a combined total of 22 runs against Lovejoy last week.  

“We haven’t faced them since I’ve been here, but they do have a really good program,” said Coleman. “Last year, they made it to the Elite Eight. I want to say they are No. 1 in our classification in the state right now. 

“They are well coached.”