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Stellar Lady Rebels season comes to abrupt end
Pitching change
Effingham County' infielders Francie Gaskin (from left), Jaci Coleman, Sydney Newberry and Hilarie Jackson meet behind the mound during a second-inning pitching change on Thursday. Freshman Rylee Mills replaced junior Julia Carter. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

 SPRINGFIELD —  After they got off to an electric start in the decisive game of their second-round Class AAAAAA playoff series Thursday, the Effingham County Lady Rebels had the plug pulled on them.

Apalachee pitcher Emily Hodnett faced just one batter over the minimum in the final six innings of a 7-2 Lady Wildcats victory at Rebel Field. She notched eight of her nine strikeouts and allowed no hits during the game-ending stretch.

Hodnett struggled early, allowing back-to-back hits to Addie Reynolds and Sydney Newberry to open the contest. Then an error loaded the bases and Francie Gaskin delivered a hard shot to right field that plated the Lady Rebels’ only runs.

Effingham County squandered its hot start with shaky defense. The Lady Wildcats (19-11) scored four times in the second inning despite collecting just two hits against Julia Carter. They benefitted from two infield miscues and a walk.

“I think that just took the wind out of our sails,” Lady Rebels head coach Jane Trzaska said. “Even though it was only the second inning, we changed our whole approach (at the plate) after that. I kept telling them to play like the first inning.

“ ‘You guys were aggressive. You guys were going after (Hodnett) and putting runs on the board. You’ve changed your whole approach. Go after it. Go after it.’ ”

Trzaska remained proud of her Region 2-AAAAAA champions despite the defeat that brought the season to an abrupt end. Effingham County (25-5) entered the best-of-three series riding a 16-game win streak.

“They were doing their best out there,” she said. “That’s all I can want as a coach.”

Trzaska said it was a delight to work with the Lady Rebels. 

“It’s fun to watch them play,” she said. “I get excited knowing that we are going to have a game. ... Sometimes things just don’t go your way.”

Trzaska is already looking forward to her second season at the helm. Her team is relatively young with Newberry, Gaskin, Hilarie Jackson, Jaci Coleman and Ashley Wilson its lone seniors

“We are losing a great core, some great leaders,” she said. “I am going to miss them but we are going to keep pushing and keep growing, and keep working on things we need to work on for next season.”