HARLEM - Tuesday's Region 3-AAA Championship game looked different to no one. With north subregion top-seed Harlem facing off against south subregion No. 1 South Effingham, the game was a rematch of last season's region finals.
"Same situation, same everything except for the venue," South Effingham baseball coach Tony Kirkland said. "Last year we were down at our place."
To continue the theme from last year, the same team won the region title. South Effingham came away with a 3-1 win.
"It's goal No. 2," Kirkland said. "We set out to win the subregion, win the region and them advance to state."
The Mustangs will advance to the Class AAA state tournament as a No. 1 seed. Harlem will enter the state playoffs as the second-seed after a season full of clutch hitting left them on Tuesday night.
Only five Bulldogs reached base in the game on four hits and a walk. The rest of the night South Effingham pitcher Ryam Cole was near perfect.
The senior threw five innings of one-run, four-hit ball while Waylan Pickard and Colby May threw an inning each in relief.
After South Effingham took a 1-0 lead on a single by Pickard in the top of the fourth inning, Bulldogs senior Rodney Scruggs lined a double into right field. Junior Wesley Morris brought Scruggs in on the next at bat to tie the game at 1-1.
South Effingham responded with two runs in the final inning on a single from catcher John Roberts.
The three runs were enough for South Effingham.
"We've had to do a lot of persevering this year so this one's nice. We're a pretty young team," Kirkland said.
Harlem's loss gave the Bulldogs their second consecutive region runner-up finish.
"I'm disappointed. We've got a much better team than last year, and I thought this was the year we were going to win the region," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "It was the same old thing - a failure to hit the ball and a failure to lay down the bunt."
The Bulldogs tried and failed to move runners over on sacrifice bunts three times in the region finals.
The lack of offense wasted a strong showing from starting pitcher Mike Sanders. The senior went 6Q innings with five strikeouts and left with the game tied at 1-1.
Harlem still earned a home series in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament which will begin May 11.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 863-6165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.