After striking out in two of its first three at bats, the Effingham offense flipped the switch. Drew Levitt sent a two-run blast over the left field wall to get the Hearts on the board, and the offense wouldn't stop from there.
Effingham scored runs in each of the first four innings, and did enough defensively to hold on to a 8-5 victory over visiting North Clay.
"That was great," Effingham coach Chris Fleener said about the early lead. "After that it was like cat and mouse; we score a couple then they score a couple."
Before North Clay could cross home plate, however, Effingham added another pair of runs in the second. Kevin Daugherty opened the inning with a single to right center, and Adam Koester advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt.
Now on second, Daugherty reached home off a single from Jeff Coleman that was lined down the left-field line. Coleman scored two batters later off a wild pitch to give Effingham a 4-0 Hearts lead.
"I don't know if we really made it off the bus," Cardinals coach John Frech said. "In the future, that's got to get better."
The four-run lead didn't last long, as Frech's squad first showed signs of life in the third inning. Adam Cox ripped an RBI double to left center that scored Nate Micklautz, and Logan Hilderbrand showcased his power with a two-run homer that soared over the center-field fence one batter later to cut the deficit to just one run.
"I don't think we woke up until the times when it mattered," Frech said. "We had our spurts, they weren't going to give us much."
Effingham answered the call in the bottom of the inning, matching North Clay's three runs to extend the lead back to four. The Hearts only had one hit in the third, but managed to score a trio of runs off two costly North Clay errors. The final came when Micklautz launched a ball high to third from behind the plate in an effort to pick off a runner, allowing Matt Steffen to coast home.