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The South Effingham Mustangs baseball team got just about everything it was looking for Saturday afternoon — clutch hitting, aggressive baserunning solid defense and sturdy pitching.
The Mustangs (12-9) followed up a 4-1 win Friday night over Burke County with an 11-0 whipping of Hephzibah, going to 7-2 in Region 3-AAA South.
“We’re in a situation now where we’ve had to win,” Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland said. “We haven’t had that a lot of times. The kids did a good job. If they remember this game is fun and play like it, there’s no telling what they can do.”
Saturday against the Rebels, there wasn’t much the Mustangs didn’t do. They scored two runs in the first without getting a ball out of the infield, added five runs with two outs in the fourth and tacked on the final two runs in the fourth after they were two out and none on.
After Patrick Styblo drew a leadoff walk, Zach Anderson attempted to bunt him over, but the Rebels misplayed it and the throw to first baseman Mario Hutchinson was high. Colby May’s groundout brought in a run and a wild pitch, the first of three on the day, made it 2-0.
“We haven’t done that all year,” Kirkland said. “That was A, B, C baseball. It’s something we haven’t been able to do.”
With two on and two out in the fourth, Kiefer Youmans walked and Waylon Pickard was hit by a pitch, forcing in a run. Chris Zittrouer and Ryan Baggott each followed with two-run singles to stretch the lead to 7-0.
May smashed an RBI double to dead center in the fourth, scoring Styblo, who had doubled. John Roberts brought in May with a sacrifice fly to center. Youmans was hit by a pitch and Pickard walked, and Zittrouer lined another single to center, with Pickard scoring as the ball was kicked.
The Mustangs finished with seven hits, but drew five walks. Of their five bases on balls and two hit batters, six eventually scored.
“We haven’t been stellar all year long,” Kirkland said. “I didn’t expect any 16-17-game winning streaks. All I wanted was for us to get better in the end, and we’re still trying to get there.”
While the Mustangs took advantage of nearly every opportunity presented to them Saturday, Styblo managed to keep the Rebels scoreless. A baserunner in the first was thrown out trying to advance on a pitch that bounced away, just before Stephen Morgan doubled to center.
With a runner on first in the second, Aaron Lewis lined a Styblo offering off the fence in left, but Billy Lamie stopped at second base. Another single loaded the bases, but Styblo coaxed a foul pop from Barry Hyman and a fly to center from Tony Miller.
The Rebels loaded the bases again in the fourth before Zittrouer turned a double play ended the inning.
Styblo, a left-hander, missed the early part of the season after surgery on his right shoulder.
“I don’t know if he hasn’t made a bigger difference in the lineup,” Kirkland said. “He’s provided a spark.”
Stephen Vaughn pitched a scoreless fifth, getting a diving catch from Youmans in center field.
“We’re getting really good defense from some people,” Kirkland said.
The veteran Mustangs coach also tipped his cap to the Rebels, who last week had to forfeit a game to Richmond Hill because they didn’t have enough players.
“They’re a scrappy bunch,” he said, noting they played at Liberty County the night before and lost 6-5.