South Effingham High School

End to run marks end of Womack era at SEHS


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May 25, 2016

By Patrick Donahue


It’s become a tradition for the South Effingham High School baseball team, where the head coach calls up each senior one-by-one, giving each a hug and a word after the final game of the season has been played. It’s the Mustangs’ way of sending their seniors off to what’s next.

For the nine seniors, it was a chance to say goodbye to their coach — and for their coach to bid farewell to the program he led for seven seasons.

Last Wednesday’s 5-3 Game 3 loss to Loganville was the final game in Ron Womack’s coaching career. Womack is also an assistant principal at the school, and ordinarily administrators aren’t allowed to coach. The school made an exception for Womack, giving him one final season with the baseball team, a campaign that ended with a Final Four berth in the Class AAAAA state tournament and a 23-12 record.

“You pour so much heart, sweat and tears into a program and into some guys, said Womack, slightly wistful at the end of his coaching tenure and the season. “It’s hard when it’s gone. When you got a team like that, that will fight tooth and nail, as a coach, you’ve got to be happy with that. That’s all you can ask. Nobody can be perfect, but everybody can fight. It’s a fitting group to be the last one.

Womack spent his last night as coach doing something he’d done countless times before, accounting for thousands of hours over the years — taking care of the field. Heavy rains led to Game 3 postponing Game 3 from Tuesday to Wednesday morning and eventually Wednesday afternoon.

It had been a long day and night Tuesday, and an early wake-up call Wednesday, to get the field ready for the finale against Loganville. Womack and his coaching staff worked on the field from 4:30 in the afternoon until 10 at night.

“We probably took 500 gallons of water off the surface, Womack said. “We were here at 5:50 this morning, cutting the lights on. I’m sure the neighborhood thought, ‘what is this crazy guy doing?’

The players too went to work on the field before the coaches sent them home around 8 p.m. The rain delay in getting the final game played made them think about a similar situation at Forsyth Central. The difference?

“This is our home field and we had to take care of it, shortstop Austin Thompson said. “We were soaking wet getting the tarps off, which I don’t think anybody likes to do.

The players knew it was Womack’s last season, and Wednesday’s loss was his last game as coach.

“I teared up a little saying goodbye to him, Thompson said. “He means a lot to me. I look up to him and have a great deal of respect for him. He’s been a huge find for South Effingham baseball, and I think his resume says that. We’ll miss him dearly, but I’m optimistic toward next year.

For the seniors, going out with their coach was a fitting end to their high school careers, team’s vocal and unequivocal leader pointed out.

“I wouldn’t want to be with anybody else than the team we have here, said Garrett Hodges, the senior right fielder and pitcher. “It’s hard for some of the underclassmen. But I wouldn’t want to go out with anybody else. He’s a guy I can call at any time and talk about anything. I’m glad I got to play for him for four years.

In seven years, Womack won 135 games and led the Mustangs to three quarterfinals appearances.

Womack too was glad to exit with what he called “a very special group, many of whom had started for him since their sophomore season.

“They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do, he said. “We put them grueling practices, two-a-days, freezing temperatures, and never complained. They always answered the bell and were ready to go. I couldn’t pick a better group to go out with.

“There isn’t a whole lot you can say that they don’t already know. You tell them you love them and if they ever need anything, I’ll be coach for a lifetime. If they need me, they know where I’m at.

He may not be the coach anymore, and his replacement likely will be named early next month, but Womack will continue to keep on the field.

“I’ll definitely have to put a rake in my hand, he said. “I was handed down something beautiful and told, ‘don’t mess it up, only make it better.’ We work very hard on it.





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