With staff ace Jesse Osborne still on the mend, the South Effingham Mustangs have turned to their offense and are asking a little more out of their other pitchers.
Both delivered Friday night.
The Mustangs swept their Class AAA state baseball playoffs first round doubleheader from Westover with some uneasy moments, winning 11-7 and 15-6.
“We swung it pretty well,” Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland said, “and we can swing it even better.”
The Mustangs (20-7) had 28 hits in the two games. Matt Zettler, getting the call to start the first game, held the Patriots to three runs over the first six innings before Westover began to rally. Freshman Ian Byrd shook off a rough start and pitched 5 1/3 innings in the nightcap for the win.
“Our pitching staff impressed me,” Kirkland said. “That was a freshman in Game 2, and he kept it in the zone. He does have ice water in his veins. For a freshman, just going out and doing his job, it impressed me to watch. There are a lot of good things and good days ahead of him here at this place.”
Byrd gave up a two-run homer to Andrew Anderson, his second of the day, and a solo shot to Lance Shernisky in the first two innings. But he settled down quickly after that, retiring eight in a row until Kerry Hall’s one-out single in the fifth.
“I’m proud of Byrd,” said junior Stephen Vaughn, who threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief behind Byrd. “That was a freshman stepping up.”
South Effingham trailed 3-2 after two innings, but Tyler Dodd started the comeback with a two-out, two-run single in the third. Ryan Baggott triggered a three-run rally in the fourth with a leadoff double to dead center. Colby May drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center, and John Roberts followed with a two-run double to left center. Hall threw wildly to first on Chris Zittrouer’s grounder, and courtesy runner Michael Miller never stopped running, scoring from second.
Jace Daley’s perfectly placed bunt down the third-base line loaded the bases in the fifth, leading to Zach Anderson’s RBI walk and May’s run-scoring single to center.
The Patriots struck for three runs in the fifth when May’s throw to second on a double play attempt sailed past second baseman Tyler Dodd. The Mustangs made up for it, as Dodd tripled to open the sixth and scored on Vaughn’s sac fly to right. Anderson’s double, an error and Zittrouer’s RBI single to center capped the scoring for the Mustangs.
Vaughn entered the game on the mound in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but C.J. Hillard lined to Travis Wooten, Vaughn’s replacement at first, and Wooten stepped on the bag for an inning-ending double play.
“Our guys have to pitch, and we have to have the support behind them,” Kirkland said. “We’re young on the hill.”
The Mustangs’ bats went to work early against the Patriots in Game 1. Anderson, May, Roberts and Zittrouer singled in the bottom of the first. Dodd’s sac fly and Vaughn’s fielder’s choice made it 3-1.
Kirkland called for two hit and runs in the second inning and each worked as drawn up. Anderson’s single put runners on the corners and after May’s sac fly, Zittrouer drove in another run with a single.
“We did some things that sometimes you have to do, and we executed pretty well tonight, I thought,” Kirkland said. “The hit and runs, two of them, were excellent.”
May’s two-run double to left, a line shot that turned Westover left fielder Steve Cantrell, put the Mustangs ahead 7-2 in the third. Doubles from Dodd and Marcus Zeigler and Daley’s base hit made it 9-2 in the fourth.
Shernisky’s two-run homer in the sixth cut it to 9-3, but the Mustangs got those runs back in the bottom of the inning when Baggott lined a run-scoring double to left center and scored on Anderson’s sac fly.
“If I was impressed with one kid more than any other kid tonight, it was Ryan Baggott,” Kirkland said. “He did his job every time tonight.”
Those runs turned out to be big — Branden Lee and Anderson each hit two-run homers off Zettler in the seventh before Kane Smith got the final out. In addition to his two two-run homers, Anderson struck out five in four innings before getting lifted. He also drew an intentional walk with runners on second and third with the Mustangs ahead 12-3 in the second game.
“They have some very talented young men,” Kirkland said. “Anderson impressed me. Anytime you’re up 12-3 and your pitching coach wants to put him on, that tells you something.”
Hall and Hillard each had three hits in the doubleheader for the Patriots (19-9). Westover hit five home runs in the series but had no other extra-base hits.
Zittrouer was 5-for-9 in the doubleheader with five RBIs, Anderson was 4-for-7 and scored six runs, May was 4-for-7 with five RBIs, Daley, the No. 9 hitter, was 3-for-6 and scored five runs, Dodd was 4-for-7 with three RBIs and Roberts was 3-for-7. The Mustangs had nine doubles and a triple among their 28 hits.
“All of them control the bat so well,” Kirkland said. “John hits with power. Colby hits with power. But they control the bat so well.”
The Mustangs will travel to meet Henry County in the second round on Wednesday. The War Hawks (16-5) swept Northside-Columbus, taking the first game 24-14 and the second game 9-6.