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Jackets sweep 1st round of playoffs

    BROOKLET — Sierra Peebles pitched a pair of complete game gems and Effie Manahan knocked in five runs as Southeast Bulloch swept its best-of-three series against Monticello Thursday afternoon in the first round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.
    The Lady Yellow Jackets (20-6-2) took a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the series before punching its ticket into the next round of the postseason with a 4-1 win in the second game.
    Peebles — SEB’s freshman ace — was at her best in the clinching game as she fanned 10 Lady Hurricanes, allowed just one hit and surrendered one unearned run.
    “It’s great to know that you have a pitcher that can throw strong games back-to-back,” said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. “(Monticello) really didn’t hit Sierra much all day. Once we started fielding bunts a little better, she was able to settle in and get a lot of strikeouts.”
    The Jackets got off to a good start in the first inning as Nira Byrd legged out an infield single, stole second, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, then scored when Effie Manahan laced a one-off of Monticello starter Taylor Garrett – who pitched both games for the Hurricanes – to give SEB a 1-0 lead.
    In the third inning, Byrd started another rally as she reached on an error, then stole second and third. Lindsey Crosby worked a full count before lofting a fly ball to left that allowed Byrd to tag up and score.
    “We don’t have a lot of power on this team,” said Civalier. “We depend on manufacturing runs. We had people do all of the right things today to push some big runs across.”
    Dallas McClellan added some insurance with an RBI single in the sixth, and Manahan knocked in Crosby with a seventh inning double, but it proved unnecessary as Peebles sat down the final seven Hurricanes to slam the door on the
    “It feels great to get the win,” said Civalier. “We were getting a little anxious waiting to play since the games got delayed a couple of days. It took a little while to get going, but we played very well once we did.”
SEB 4, Monticello 3
    The Jackets had to overcome a few errors and an early deficit to take the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader. SEB trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the third inning, but one big swing and some great pitching by Peebles keyed a comeback 4-2 win.
    Southeast Bulloch took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Byrd drew a leadoff walk, then worked her way to third and scored on a single by Manahan.
    The Hurricanes struck back in the third as a pair of wild throws by Peebles allowed two runners to reach base and eventually score for a 2-1 Monticello lead.
    In the bottom of the third, the first two Jackets were retired, but Crosby singled to left to set the stage for Manahan. Garrett tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball over for a strike, but Manahan was waiting, sending a high fly ball over the wall in left center to regain a 3-2 lead for the Jackets.
    “Effie came up huge for us today,” said Civalier. “No one spends more time working on her hitting than Effie and she gave us a big spark at the plate today.”
    The Jackets scored what turned out to be the game-winning run an inning later.
    Leah McCarthy led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, then advanced to third on a single by McClellan. Casey Hadden then laid down a perfect safety squeeze, allowing McCarthy to come home.
    After the third inning troubles, Peebles went back to work, cruising through the middle innings and racking up the majority of her 11 strikeouts.
    Down to its final at bat, Monticello tried to rally in the seventh. With one out, C.J. Jackson grounded to Peebles, but no one covered first and Jackson reached. A fielder’s choice sent Jackson to second and another infield single put runners at the corners before Kaitlin Needham punched a single into left to score Jackson and pull Monticello within 4-3.
    With the tying run at second, Garrett had a chance to pull her team back into the game, but Peebles coaxed a lazy fly ball to right field that Hadden squeezed for the final out of SEB’s Game 1 win.
    SEB now advances to the second round of the state tournament. Next Wednesday, the Jackets will either travel to Cook or host Pierce County in the second round of the state playoffs.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.