Charleston’s Ava Goble (above) high-fives Rylee Shrader after scoring in the first inning.

By Chet Piotrowski

Charleston appeared to be in the driver’s seat for 3½ innings, getting timely hitting from the top of the order and great pitching that induced five groundouts and two strikeouts until the bottom of the fourth. 

Then the proverbial wheels fell off. 

Effingham rallied from a 4-0 deficit by scoring six runs across the fourth and fifth innings en route to a 6-5 IESA Regional semifinal softball win over the Trojans.

After being shut down by Emma Morecraft through three innings, Effingham strung together seven singles and a steal of home to score four runs in the fourth to tie the score at 4.

“Emma does a great job of changing speeds and they finally figured it out and started sitting back on her changeup that she’s effective with,” Charleston Middle softball coach Blain Mayhall said. 

Ava Goble, who replaced Morecraft in the fifth, gave up four singles and a sacrifice fly to start the inning.

Effingham’s Saige Althoff led off with a single to center, Kristen Armstrong followed with a single to right that sent Althoff to third. Effingham’s Madi Kirk bunted to Goble, who tossed the ball to Morecraft, now playing first, as Althoff scored to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game. 

Armstrong moved to third on a single by Mady Harvey and scored after Bria Beals singled to center to make it 6-4.

 “Early on, she was getting groundouts,” Mayhall said. “We decided to change speeds with Ava and sometimes you have to do that. It’s great to have two pitchers that are so different. Emma did a great job, but they just started to sit back.”

Lilly Zerbst tripled to drive in Ella Price and cut the deficit to 6-5 in the sixth but was stranded after a line drive to third ended the inning.

The Trojans were retired in order in the seventh.

“It’s like their (Effingham) balls had GPS that would find holes in the infield,” Mayhall said. “They didn’t hit the ball hard. It was just singles through holes in our infield. I can’t fault our girls for that. They did what they were supposed to do. You just stay positive. I just told them ‘You just played them Friday and we hurt ourselves and made five errors.’ Then tonight we didn’t do anything to hurt ourselves. The just found the holes. We didn’t do anything to get beat. They beat us. You just stay positive and upbeat throughout the game.”

Charleston had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Raylin Cox doubled to drive in Brie Tomlinson and Gobles.

“Avery has a green light for her when she wants whenever she wants. I don’t call anything for her. She’s a little slapper and she looks at the field and she chooses. I let her do that,” he said. “Brie, I gave her one swing and I thought let’s see if they can field a bunt. So she laid down a beautiful bunt. We talked about that before the game because we faced a good pitcher.”

Effingham advances to the regional final to play Newton, which beat Mattoon, 5-4.