South Effingham, Calvary Day School and Camden County are carrying the banner for Coastal Georgia in baseball. The schools advanced to the state semi-finals in their respective classifications.
Class AAA South Effingham defeated Riverwood 10-7 Wednesday and hosts Columbus Monday.
Class A Calvary defeated Aquinas and hosts Gordon Lee Monday.
Class AAAAA Camden County defeated North Gwinnett Wednesday and hosts Walton Monday.
The South Effingham Mustangs may be the most unlikely and unheralded of the Final Four teams, even if this is South Effingham’s third trip to the semis in four years — Dunwoody, Carrollton and Columbus are all ranked in the top 10, but South Effingham hasn’t been ranked since the middle of the season. But for the Mustangs’ seniors, this is the first time for many of them they’ve played a meaningful part in getting to this stage.
Last year, the Mustangs fell in the second round to Harris County. This year, the Mustangs got out of the gate slowly, but have found their stride in the last month. And they’ve done it without a lot of star power, either.
“It means a lot,” third baseman Waylon Pickard said. “The first two years, I didn’t play much. But after last year, this is huge.”
In the series win over Riverwood, the Mustangs committed just three errors and their bullpen, relying mainly on Matt Zettler and Colby May, registered 11 strikeouts in 11 innings.
At the plate, nine different Mustangs drove in runs during the series, and they hit a collective .315. They also turned three double plays, including a crucial twin-killing in the sixth inning of Game 3.
Riverwood coach Mike Santoro said the Mustangs stack up well against Dunwoody, which will play Carrollton in the other semifinal.
“South Effingham is a team that when firing on all cylinders can play with Dunwoody,” he said. “Dunwoody has two tough pitchers. But South Effingham brought their bats with them. They’re not up there to walk.”
Against Dunwoody earlier this year, the Mustangs trailed 3-2 before the Wildcats broke it open and won 9-3. David Port struck out six and allowed six hits in a complete-game win.
But the Mustangs’ record against some of the state’s best teams is solid, if not spectacular. They swept their season series with Class AA quarterfinalist Savannah Christian, split with defending Class A state champ Calvary, including a wild 15-14 slugfest, and split with Jeff Davis, also a Class AA quarterfinalist.
Plus, they beat Carrollton, one of the other Class AAA Final Four teams, 5-0 this year.
“We got ourselves scheduled against what we consider the best in the state,” Kirkland said. “We’ve had high-caliber opponents all year.”
— Donahue is the editor for the Effingham Herald. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org