The hole wound up being too deep, the mountain a little too tall for the South Effingham Mustangs.
The Mustangs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but the visiting Calvary Day Cavaliers left the tying run on third base, holding on for a 10-9 win Thursday night.
“Every time we play them here, there is a one-run barnburner,” said Cavaliers coach Kevin Farmer. “But it’s great for both teams.”
A year ago, the Mustangs gave up 13 runs in an inning yet prevailed over the Cavaliers 15-14 at The Corral. Thursday night, the Cavs pushed across five runs in a pivotal fourth inning.
Leading 5-4, the Cavaliers (5-3) had the bases loaded and two outs when freshman catcher Sam Thornton ripped a two-run double inside third base. A walk to Trice Thornton re-loaded the bases, and Kyle Farmer drilled a two-run single to center. An error, the second of the inning, plated another run.
“They made great plays all night long and early on, we did not,” Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland said. “We gave them six outs, and they did everything with them.”
The Cavs turned a double play to end the second inning, third baseman Nathan Hatcher dove to snare a Colby May liner in the fourth, Hatcher made another stop on Michael Miller smash in the fifth and center fielder Nick Paris made a catch on his knees to end the sixth.
Paris’ miscue in center led to a three-run Mustang rally in the first. He misplayed Chris Zittrouer’s would-be sacrifice fly, and Travis Wooten followed with a sac fly of his own. After back-to-back walks, Miller singled to left to chase home Zittrouer.
But the Cavs, the defending Class A state champs and the second straight state champs the Mustangs have faced, answered right back in the top of the second. Kyle Farmer beat out a grounder deep in the hole, allowing Cody Padgett to score. Paris singled to left, driving in a run, and the Mustangs’ first error of the day brought in Farmer with the tying run.
“I guess they get to a point where they have a lot of confidence,” Coach Farmer said of his team not panicking when they got down 3-0 on the road. “Playing in pressure situation builds confidence and allows them to perform in pressure situations.”
Another error played a pivotal role in the Cavs’ two-run third inning as they took the lead for good. With two out and a runner on first, Zittrouer grabbed Trice Thornton’s chopper to third and fired to first. But his throw pulled Stephen Vaughn off the bag and caromed off his glove down the right field line. Padgett scored all the way from first, and Kyle Farmer lined a run-scoring single to put the Cavs up 5-3.
Farmer finished 4-for-4 and drove in four runs, along with turning a double play as May tried to turn him upside down.
“Kyle had a good game today,” Coach Farmer said of his brother, 16 years his junior.
The Mustangs stranded two runners each in the fourth and fifth innings, getting two on with two out in each frame.
But their rally in the seventh began with two out and one on off Padgett. After a walk to freshman Jake Youmans, Zach Anderson lined a two-run double to left center. He scored on a wild pitch after Colby May singled to left.
Following a walk to John Roberts, Zittrouer smacked an RBI single to left.
With runners on first and second, Padgett’s pitch got away from Sam Thornton and Zittrouer broke for second. But Tyler Dodd, the runner on second didn’t break from third, and Zittrouer was hung up between first and second. Joey Lupus threw to third to try to get Dodd but his throw got away, and Dodd scampered home and Zittrouer raced for third.
Padgett got Travis Wooten to ground out to short to end the game.
“But we didn’t quit,” Kirkland said. “And that’s a positive. As a result, we had a chance to get back into that one. The odds are you are not going to win it, and we had the tying run at third.”
Beau Smith gave up two hits over three scoreless innings for the Cavaliers. Lupus went the first three innings, giving up four runs on four hits and five walks.
Vaughn went the final 3 1/3 innings for South Effingham, striking out three, walking four and allowing two runs on three hits. Anderson allowed eight runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Anderson was 2-for-5 for the Mustangs with two RBIs, and Zittrouer finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Miller also knocked in two runs.