By Race Archibald
Mattoon was in desperate need of a rally to secure its first-ever spot in the IHSA state championship softball game.
Glenbard South had scored five runs in the first inning in the 2008 Class 3A state semifinal matchup with Mattoon.
The Green Wave scored two runs in the fourth inning to put the score at 5-2, which held until the top of the seventh inning.
Then senior pitcher Aubrey Frank stepped to the plate.
She ripped a two-run home run to spark a comeback that would give Mattoon a 6-5 win over Glenbard South to advance to face Bartonville in the state title game.
Mattoon would reach the state semifinals in 2012, but no other Mattoon has ever reached the state tournament.
“The first several innings were not our best,” said Bailiegh Basham, who was a sophomore catcher on the team. “We never felt like we were out of it.”
Basham and senior infielder Danielle Flowers were able to get on base and score when Frank blasted the homer.
“We were on a roll and strung some hits together,” Basham said.
Frank retired all three batters she faced in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
Basham was a part of a team that had a mix of youth and experienced players, which created a winning environment that season.
She only had 28 plate appearances that year, but had a .571 batting average with 15 RBIs.
“We had strong leadership from the upperclassmen and Coach (Dave) McDowell, who was well-established and knew what he was doing,” Basham said.
Mattoon had cruised through the postseason, defeating Charleston 2-0, Troy 13-1, Freeburg 7-0, and Springfield 1-0 along the way.
“Aubrey and Reynae (Hutchinson) were great pitchers. We relied on them a lot,” Basham said. “We also had good bats throughout the lineup.”
Frank pitched in 19 games, with a 0.80 ERA and a 17-2 record while Hutchinson went 14-3 in her 17 appearances with a 0.71 ERA.
Hutchinson was also a force in the batters box, hitting .523 and driving in 31 runs.
After losing to Bartonville 3-0 in the final, Mattoon finished with an impressive 31-5 record as a member of the Big 12 conference.
“Being from Mattoon, we were one of the smaller teams in that conference,” Basham said. “Seeing how competitive we were in that conference gave us confidence.”
Despite losing the state title, Basham retains great memories from the journey through the season.
“The practices that we had in the postseason: I remember they were still structured and we had to get the job done,” Basham said. “But it was just a cool experience, practicing with the high school that far into the summer.”
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