Effingham County completed its season sweep of intra-county rival South Effingham, winning 3-1 Tuesday at Lady Rebel Field.
Earlier in the season, the Lady Rebels defeated the Lady Mustangs 2-0 at South Effingham. This is the first time Effingham County has swept the series in five years.
“It’s great. That’s all I can say is it’s great,” Effingham senior catcher Marie Fogle said. “Usually we lose in softball and I have to redeem myself in basketball, but this year hopefully it will be both sports.”
South Effingham swept the series last year, but this season had a difficult time scoring.
In Tuesday’s loss, the Lady Mustangs squandered several scoring opportunities, stranding eight runners.
“This was like the first game; we had opportunities and more opportunities and I don’t know if it’s a disease or a plague, but were going to continue to get better,” SEHS coach Donnie Ussery said. “They (Effingham) took advantage of some miscues we had and we got behind at the plate.”
Eerily like the first meeting of the year, all of Effingham’s offense came in the first inning. With the bases loaded, Tabby Douberly smacked a two-out double to left field, scoring Shelby Duff, Fogle and Kayla English. All three base runners reached via walk.
Duff and the Lady Rebel defense did the rest of the work. Duff went the distance to earn the win, often pitching out of jams.
“We pulled it out, but we still have a lot to work on,” she said. I threw a lot of everything, but it was just whatever they would swing at.”
In the second inning, South Effingham had the bases loaded with one out but only could muster a run, leaving the bases loaded. Joni Lynn scored off Lindsey Brichacek’s bloop hit between first and second base that landed just a few yards past the infield clay. Duff then got Megan Romano to pop up and Alexis Mercer to ground out to retire the side.
Duff pitched out of a jam the following inning.
With runners on the corners and one out, Duff got Ciara Knowles to pop up and struck out Austin Oglesby. The next four innings, Duff settled down, only allowing two hits and a walk.
“I tip my hat to Shelby. She pitched in and out of jams all night,” Ussery said. “She did a great job. I’m real impressed with her. She’s a competitor on the (circle) and she did a great job.”
Duff wasn’t the only impressive pitcher in the game. South Effingham starter Sally Faircloth, after allowing three runs in the first inning, was perfect the next three innings. Casey Johnson pitched the next two innings, recorded four strikeouts and allowed two hits.
Effingham coach Tesh Pace said it’s good to beat a competitive team like South Effingham, but the focus must be on subregion play.
The Lady Rebels travel to Waycross on Saturday for a double-header with Ware County. Despite being county champions and boasting a 6-2 record, the Lady Rebels are 0-1 in Region 3-AAAA south play, losing 1-0 to Wayne County.
“We got a lot of work to do. We pulled it out, but overall I don’t think our performance was very good,” Pace said. “Of course, it’s good to beat South Effingham but our main concern is that South Effingham is a great team to play to get us ready for our region tournament. We have to play good against them in order to play good in our region tournament.”
Effingham struggled at the plate, only getting three hits. Pace said her team would continue to work on their hitting. Last week, the Lady Rebels primarily worked on hitting during practice.
“We just got to get it out there and find good pitches to hit,” she said.
Meanwhile, South Effingham is off to one of its worst starts in school history, but fortunately for them they’re still 0-0 where it counts — subregion play. Subregion 3-AAA (A) action starts at 6 p.m. tonight against Richmond Hill.
“That’s the biggest thing I told them is we are 1-6, but those seven games mean nothing,” Ussery said. “Region play starts Thursday and if we want to get where we want to be we have to win region games. It’s going to click, but I’m still waiting for us to get hot. But we can’t wait too long. We have to get hot now.”
Stranding runners on base was a problem for the Lady Mustangs at the end of last season and has continued to plague the team. Ussery said he believes the problem is mental.
“I think it’s a little frustration,” he said. “I think what happens is early in the game they don’t get a hit and they get frustrated with themselves or they get frustrated in practice or pregame and they take it to the plate. I think a lot of it is mental. It has nothing to do with their abilities. A lot of it is between our ears and one of the things I want to focus on is to have confidence at the plate.”