It may have lacked the drama of their stirring comeback against Richmond Hill, but the South Effingham Mustangs’ victory Tuesday night was welcome just the same.
The Mustangs rolled to an easy 13-3 six-inning win over Benedictine for their eighth consecutive victory and remained unbeaten in Region 3-AAA.
But the image of someone turning the tables on his team for their rally from 10 runs down the last time out made Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland uneasy.
“Our little comeback against Richmond Hill makes you a little gunshy,” he said. “Anything can happen. BC can swing it. At any point in the game, they can strike.”
The Mustangs struck early and often in going to 15-4 for the season and 7-0 in the region. They did much of their damage with two outs, with Chris Zittrouer’s RBI double to straightaway center field in the bottom of the first bringing in the first run.
South Effingham stretched the lead to 6-0 in the second. Zach Anderson’s grounder to first took a wicked hop past first baseman Alex Hunt and into right field, allowing Tyler Dodd to score. Jace Daley and Zach Anderson each darted home on a wild pitch, and after back-to-back walks, Zittrouer legged out a high bouncer to shortstop Tyler Van Waldner for a hit and another RBI. Stephen Vaughn’s forceout chased in the final run of the frame.
The Cadets (10-6, 3-3) got their lone run off starter Jesse Osborne after the Mustangs senior right-hander walked Wynn Moore to lead off the third inning. Moore advanced to third on a double play ball and scored on a wild pitch.
In four innings, Osborne only allowed one hit, Michael Johnson’s second-inning single. He walked two, hit one batter and struck out three in going to 6-2.
“Jesse did not have his best stuff and his best command,” Kirkland said. “But he’s a pitcher, and he knows how to pitch when he’s got good stuff and he knows how to pitch when he doesn’t have good stuff.”
In the third, the Mustangs staged a two-out, none-on rally to all but put the game away. Daley lined a triple to the right field corner, and after reliever Nick Keuler walked Anderson, Colby May bounced a run-scoring single to right.
John Roberts crushed a two-run double to center, and he scored when Van Waldner’s throw to first on another Zittrouer grounder skipped past first baseman A.J. DeFilippis, allowing Roberts to score from second.
“We took advantage of some things,” Kirkland said.
Daley doubled in Marcus Zeigler in the bottom of the fourth, after Zeigler led off with a double of his own off the top of the fence in left center.
Kyle Tootle’s groundout and DeFilippis’ sacrifice fly brought in two runs off Mustangs reliever Matt Lancaster, cutting the lead to 11-3 and extending the game. But the lanky 6-foot-5 junior lefty got out of a bases-loaded situation in the sixth on a grounder to third baseman Kane Smith.
Having substituted liberally for his older players already, Kirkland watched as his reserves ended the game early. Dodd singled to center off Tootle, and one batter later, Johnson appeared to lose Anderson’s fly ball to right field. It landed behind him for a triple.
After a strikeout, Cameron Morris ripped a single up the middle to score Anderson for the final run.
The Mustangs compiled 15 hits, with Zittrouer finishing 3-for-3, Daley and Anderson each going 2-for-3 and Dodd finishing 2-for-4.
If there was any worry about complacency following the dramatic victory over Richmond Hill, the Mustangs eased those anxieties.
“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with this group,” Kirkland said. “I like us, and I like us a lot.”