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SEHS gets first loss in region
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South Effingham designated hitter Daniel Unser connects for a three-run homer off Richmond Hill's Alex Tucker. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Richmond Hill SEHS

SEHS vs. Richmond Hill

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The South Effingham Mustangs couldn’t steal the momentum from the Richmond Hill Wildcats and couldn’t keep their perfect region record intact.

The Wildcats, in a game that had enough changes of fortune to make Wall Street nervous, held on for a 5-4 Region 3-AAA baseball victory Friday night at The Corral.

“We had a bunch of chances,” Mustangs coach Tony Kirkland said. “They beat us in all three phases tonight, swinging the bats, defensively and they beat us on the mound. That will in a nutshell describe the game.”

The Wildcats (12-5, 4-1) struck for two runs in the top of the seventh inning, breaking a 3-3 tie. Aaron Pittsley, who was 3-for-4, led off with a single to right field out of the reach of a diving Patrick Styblo. With runners on first and second and two outs, Josh Futch lifted a foul pop up down the right side, but the Mustangs fielders couldn’t track it in the mix of lights and twilight.

Given new life, he later singled to left, scoring pinch-runner Jake Dudley. After a walk loaded the bases, Jeff Yeager scored on a wild pitch. Catcher John Roberts’ throw to pitcher Colby May covering the plate, but third baseman Stephen Vaughn backed up the play and cut down Futch trying to score from second.

Down 5-3, the Mustangs (10-8, 5-1) rallied, with Zach Anderson slapping a lead-off single to left. With two out and one on, Kiefer Youmans ripped an RBI double to right-center, scoring Chris Zittrouer and also putting the tying run in scoring position and the winning run at the plate. But reliever Matt Schlag got Waylon Pickard to ground out to second, despite Pickard’s diving attempt to beat the throw to first.

“If we had come back and won that game,” Kirkland said, “it would have been one we stole.”

The Wildcats took a 2-0 lead as Scott Strickland doubled in a run off Jesse Osborne in the first and Boaen scored on a wild pitch in the second. Strickland got out of a jam in the second as the Mustangs loaded the bases, but May flew out to center.

Osborne then wriggled out of a mess in the third, as the Wildcats loaded the bases after a double play. But Boaen grounded out to second to end the threat.

The Mustangs broke through in the fourth. Youmans and Pickard singled to start the inning, and Unser mashed a three-run shot off Alex Tucker to put South Effingham in front for the first time.

Osborne escaped another predicament in the fifth as the Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs, including Pittsley, who has had five knee operations, beating out a bunt for a hit. A comebacker, a strikeout and a groundout got Osborne and the Mustangs out of the inning unscathed.

Strickland’s single to left in the sixth scored Futch with the tying run in the sixth off reliever Ryan Cole. Cole was making his first appearance since Tommy John surgery last year. He threw 35 pitches, walking one and striking out two and giving up three runs on four hits.

Cole, who got the loss, left in the game in the seventh with an injury.

“Cole got a little tenderness at the end, so that was concerning,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland said he’s not counting on Cole making a full recovery this year and while having him back would be good, dealing with injuries is something the Mustangs are already accustomed to this season.

“We’ve had to play uphill all year long,” Kirkland said.

Osborne went five innings, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three. Youmans finished 2-for-4 and Styblo was 2-for-3. But Kirkland wasn’t happy with his team’s approach to the first game of the second half of the region schedule.

“I didn’t like a lot of our responses to failure,” he said. “We were not enough ‘me’ and too much ‘me,’ and it showed.”