By Kyle Daubs
Grace McDowell was able to walk out on top.
The 2019 Mattoon High School graduate signed with Lake Land College with aspirations to play college softball. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the adrenaline rush of competing for a berth in the national tournament.
As a consolation prize, McDowell was able to play one final season for the Mattoon Cobras, a team she has played for as long as she can remember.
On Monday, the team celebrated “Victory Monday” after finishing the weekend with a 5-0 record and a championship at the Future Stars of Sport Tournament.
“It was a great ride,” said McDowell. “We had a great time reuniting for a short period of time playing the game we all love.”
Softball has run through McDowell’s veins her whole life. She is the granddaughter of former MHS softball coach, David McDowell, who compiled a 521-199 record and guided Mattoon to the state championship game in 2008.
From 10U to 18U, McDowell has been part of countless championship teams, so it was fitting to end summer ball with one more.
“Cobra ball has, and always be, a large part of who I am,” said McDowell. “The ending was something I’ve always dreaded and it’s sad that I’ll never play with some of my teammates ever again, but I’m so ready to get back to my Lake Land family.”
McDowell was a two-time All-Apollo Conference selection in high school. As a junior, McDowell batted .382 and hit five home runs. As a senior, she batted .464 with three home runs.
She is hopeful that she can begin her own legacy at Lake Land. After playing in summer tournaments, she believes that softball can be played not only by colleges, but by those who return to public school.
At the middle school level, baseball and softball are played in the fall. For now, their season is up in the air just like all high school sports.
“I one hundred percent believe that these two sports are doable if the correct precautions are taken,” said McDowell. “We’ve pretty much just played based on tournament rules. Of course, some things are different such as sanitizing dugouts before and after games. Each team has their own balls they have to use, and no shaking hands at the end of games. Although our fall seasons may be limited, I believe we will get to play one way or another.”