By Kyle Daubs
Everyone knows about Mattoon softball, but how about an up-and-coming Charleston program?
Mattoon captured an IHSA Regional title seven of the 10 years, won two Sectional championships, made the Sweet 16 four times, earned two Elite 8 appearances and finished fourth in the state once.
Mattoon was clearly a powerhouse – also recording seven seasons with at least 20 wins or more, and three seasons with at least 30 wins or more. Among those wins included two Big 12 Conference titles and four Apollo Conference titles.
Charleston, meanwhile, started making headway toward the later part of the decade. Back to back 30-win seasons and trips to the Sweet 16 highlighted a program that normally struggled to compete against top-tier softball programs. Charleston won its first Regional (2018) for the first time since 1994 and was ranked as high as the No. 1 team in the state.
Needless to say, this All-Decade team features some of the best softball players the county has ever seen.
The format includes two main starting pitchers, an entire infield and outfield, one designated hitter, five bench players, one that receives apologies, and one for fun.
Pitcher: Kacey Starwalt (MHS Class of 2013): Starwalt was the best pitcher in the county, and among the best in the state, during last decade. Starwalt finished her career with 90-14-2 record, a 1.25 earned run average, and 847 strikeouts. Her 90 wins ranked 17th in the state. She was an ace that led Mattoon to two Big 12 Conference championships and two Apollo Conference championships. Starwalt was a two-time All-State selection and finished her senior year season with an ERA of 0.57. Starwalt was a two-way player at Butler University.
Pitcher: Emily Price (CHS Class of 2020): Losing her senior season due to COVID-19 hurt, but it should not diminish her legacy. Price (above) finished with 15 wins as a sophomore during Charleston’s 31-win season in 2018. Price followed that up by going 20-3 as a junior when CHS made the Sweet 16 a second straight year. At one point, Price pitched all 20 innings of postseason ball for the Lady Trojans as the team reached the Sectional Championship in 2019. Price will compete at Missouri-St. Louis.
Catcher: Kaitlyn Bath (MHS Class of 2015): Bath set a program-record for home runs in a season (9) when Mattoon marched to a fourth place finish in the state tournament. Bath was a two-time All-State selection who provided a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Bath played at Lake Land College before transferring to Ball State University.
1B: Macey McElravey (CHS Class of 2019): McElravey was a pretty solid pitcher, but her hitting is what will be remembered at Charleston. En route to 31 wins, McElravey recorded 70 hits, belted 15 home runs and 13 doubles. In her career, McElravey is the school’s all-time home run leader (18) and holds the career record for runs batted in (118) and doubles (44).
2B: Shelby Tate (MHS Class of 2013): Tate was a three-time All-Big 12/All-Apollo selection and should be remembered as one of the best leadoff hitters ever. Tate was one of the fastest runners at the plate. When Tate made it on, she usually ended up on second base soon thereafter. Plus, she was a talented infielder. Tate was going to play softball at Kaskaskia before switching to NCAA Division II Southern Indiana.
SS: Avery Jackson (MHS Class of 2017): Jackson has been described as “one of the best positional players” to ever go through Coles County. Jackson was a four-time All-Apollo selection. Her best outing was her junior season, when she led Mattoon with a .510 batting average, 17 doubles, and 28 RBIs. Jackson received interest from Eastern Illinois University, but she opted to play basketball for Lake Land College.
3B: Riley Phipps (MHS Class of 2015): Phipps (above) was a utility player that could play at third or behind the plate if needed. However, she was a multi-tool player that shouldn’t be overlooked. Phipps was a three-time All-State selection in high school, serving as a main power bat for Mattoon’s fourth-place finish. The following years, Phipps teamed up with Bath as premier hitters by leading the team back to the Sweet 16. Phipps finished with career stats of .446, 146 RBIs, and ranked 18th all time with 53 doubles. Phipps played at Heartland College before transferring to Illinois State University.
OF: Natalie Gordon (CHS Class of 2018): Gordon could challenge Tate for title for one of the best top-of-the-lineup hitters. Gordon finished her softball career with 173 hits, 17 triples, and 135 runs. All three stats rank most all-time in school history. Gordon, best known for playing in center field, was quick and a pure contact hitter. Gordon continued her softball career for Lake Land College.
OF: Kasey Considine (MHS Class of 2016): Considine will always be remembered as the freshman who delivered the game-winning run over Normal West in the Mattoon Super Sectional. Considine was no one-hit wonder, though. Considine was a three-time All-Apollo selection who led Mattoon with 14 doubles and 44 runs on her way to Mattoon’s Sweet 16 finish in 2015. She may not have been the power hitter in the lineup, but she was a constant presence on base.
OF: Ramsey Armstrong (CHS Class of 2020): If COVID-19 hadn’t taken away Armstrong’s senior year, she might have been Charleston High’s all-time career home run hitter. After hitting 12 home runs to lead the region in 2019, Armstrong ripped another 20 home runs into 2020. Instead, she has the second most.
DH: Reagan McGahey: (CHS Class of 2021): McGahey might have gone down as the greatest hitter in CHS history had there been a softball season in 2020. Right now, McGahey’s first two years of softball are what most other players hope to have in a career. As a freshman, McGahey hit 13 home runs, 68 hits, 63 runs and RBIs, eight triples, and owned a batting average of .523. McGahey is tied with Armstrong for second-most career home runs with 20.
SS: Allyson O’Dell (CHS Class of 2017): O’Dell finished with a batting average of .610 during one injury-riddled season, but that should not overshadow her other achievements. Let’s put this into perspective. O’Dell ranks fourth all-time in home runs (16), third in runs scored (112), fifth in hits (146), third in RBI (107). To top that off, she ranks first all-time with a career batting average of .443 as a four-year starter. O’Dell’s production took off when she went to Olney Central Community College. After that, O’Dell transferred to Division III Transylvania University.
Pitcher: Katelyn Fisher (MHS Class of 2015): Fisher was the No. 2 pitcher for Mattoon’s successful run from 2012-2015. As a freshman, Fisher had to pitch in big games and she was the perfect complement to Startwalt. After the studded 2013 class graduated, Fisher led Mattoon to two more Regional titles and appearances in the Sweet 16. Her senior year, Fisher pitched back-to-back shutouts to finish her career as a Regional champion four times. Fisher played at Lake Land College and then transferred to the University of Indianapolis.
SS: Melanie Sparks (MHS Class of 2013): Sparks was a four-year starter as an infielder who played shortstop and second base. Sparks batted .455 as a freshman and was the second-leading batter for Mattoon’s Big 12 Conference team. In her sophomore season, she led the team in RBIs. Overall, Sparks was in the starting lineup for three Big 12 Conference titles, one Apollo title, and was all-conference multiple times. Sparks chose attending Illinois Wesleyan University for a pursuit in medicine over playing softball.
OF: Grace McDowell (MHS Class of 2019): McDowell was a three-time All-Apollo outfielder who could also play third base. McDowell finished as an All-Apollo selection her sophomore season after finishing top in the area with a .490 batting average. McDowell, the granddaughter of former legendary softball coach David McDowell, lived up to her family’s name on the field.
SS: Megan O’Dell: (CHS Class of 2012): It’s hard to keep O’Dell off the team when she ranks in the upper half in nearly every major hitting category. O’Dell finished her career fourth all-time in hits (148), second all-time in RBIs (112), doubles (36), and fourth in batting average (.393).
Apologies: Jamie Packer (MHS Class of 2013): Packer once finished Honorable All-Big 12 after batting above .350, while posted a 9-1 pitching record. Packer was consistently used in a role throughout Mattoon’s most successful seasons. She finished as a three-time all-conference selection.
One for Fun: Tyler Tutt: Tutt is no high school student, but he is the best softball fan that Roundhouse could ask for. Tutt regularly attends softball games at the Mattoon Roundhouse and is on a first-name basis with most anyone who frequently watches MHS softball. Tutt threw out the first pitch to start the team’s 2013 season. When you meet Tutt, he will likely greet you with a smile and be ready to cheer on the Lady Wave.