The South Effingham Mustangs baseball team made its first win at Benedictine under Tony Kirkland dramatic for their veteran coach.
John Roberts’ sixth-inning grand slam put the Mustangs ahead in a 10-7 Region 3-AAA victory over the Cadets on Tuesday. It was Roberts’ second homer of the day, and the senior catcher finished 3-for-4 with a double and seven RBIs.
Roberts had nine home runs and has driven in 31 runs in 13 games.
“I don’t even know if amazed is the word I would use anymore,” Kirkland said of his reaction to Roberts’ performance.
Roberts hit a first-inning, two-run homer as the Mustangs built a 4-0 lead after their first at-bat. But the Cadets chipped away, cutting the lead to 4-1, then 4-2 and going ahead 5-4 in the third inning.
“It was just like every year in the past,” Kirkland said. “We jump out, and they come back. Not one minute did I feel comfortable — not one.”
South Effingham (9-4, 2-0) tied the game 5-5 in the fourth, but a self-professed “coaching blunder” on Kirkland’s part led to two Cadet runs for a 7-5 lead.
“I ask the kids to pick me up, and John said, ‘I got you, coach,’” Kirkland said.
Both of Roberts’ homers were opposite-field shots, the first “a no-doubter,” Kirkland noted, and his grand slam was a line drive the other way.
Marcus Zeigler also threw a runner out at the plate to end a BC threat just before Roberts unloaded his slam.
“That gave us a spark,” Kirkland said.
Stephen Vaughn got the win in relief of starter Matt Zettler, who struggled with his control against BC (6-3, 1-1).
“They hit him well,” Kirkland said, “and Stephen came in and did exactly what we needed to do.”
Colby May closed out the win.
The veteran Mustangs coach also liked how his team responded to losing a lead at a place where they have met with little success.
“That was a big monkey to get off our back,” Kirkland said. “We’ve never won over there. We’ve been ahead and squandered leads. They have never found that special thing to put them over the top, and they did (Tuesday). That’s heart. That’s a character issue.”
South Effingham, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, hosts Burke County on Friday.