By Kyle Daubs
Having softball back at Roundhouse Softball Complex means the world is getting back to normal.
After a one-year hiatus, Mattoon will look to get back to its winning ways. A 12-16 overall record in 2019, including a 5-7 mark in the Apollo Conference, was the team’s first losing season since 1995.
Coach Hannah Dow, in her fifth year with a 51-38 overall record, doesn’t take losing lightly.
“Instead of looking at the season as a whole, our goal this year is to focus on one game at a time,” said Dow. “We will have someone in the dugout keeping game notes and takeaways that we can both celebrate and learn from and work on in practice the following day. During our first seven team practices, this team has brought a lot of energy to the table and we are excited to get out there and see our hard work pay off.”
The team features two college commits – infielders Delainey Bryant and Raven Morrison. Bryant, who will play at Illinois State, is a former two-time All-Apollo selection. Morrison, who might also pitch this season, is headed to Danville Area Community College next season.
Seniors Xylia Greeson and Tinsley Risinger also have varsity experience. They all will have to replace Jordan Sapp, now playing at Lake Land College, as well as Maci Nadolny, Kate Jacobs, and Alexus Dibartolomeo.
“These four athletes brought a lot of leadership and experience to the team that we will miss this upcoming season,” said Dow. “Some of our strengths are going to be with our offense this year. We have quite a few girls that could bat anywhere in the lineup and are going to produce some runs for us. We also have some speed on the team, so we are going to look at being aggressive on the bases to get our runners in scoring position. As we continue to grow as a team, I think our leadership and work ethic could take us a long way as long as we get everyone to buy in every day.”
Most teams will battle inexperience and feature lineups with little varsity experience after losing last season to the pandemic. Only five of the team’s 18 players on the varsity roster have played in a varsity game, Dow said.
“I would say one of our weaknesses going into this season is lack of experience at the varsity level,” said Dow. “I do not doubt that these girls are capable of competing, it may just take a few games under our belt to get going.”
Dow also said that due to the late start to the season, she is battling issues with players coming out for softball, something that is impacting many teams in the state.
“Another weakness is in our number of athletes that came out for the softball team,” said Dow. “I know from talking to some of the coaches in the area that we are not the only ones dealing with this issue. We have three pitchers that will see a lot of innings throughout the season but we do lack depth in a couple of positions.”
Despite the lack of depth, Dow is hopeful Mattoon can get back to contending in the conference and the region. Mattoon has not won a regional championship since 2016. With the state series confirmed, Mattoon will get a chance to try and win.
“Some of our athletes have gone through a lot over the past year, mentally and physically,” said Dow. “Having the post-season playback in action has brought some excitement and a little bit of normalcy back to our team. I am very thankful that these girls get to step back out onto the field and play the game they love. We have a lot of potential and talent on this team and as long as we show up to compete every day our weekends could be booked through June 19th. I look forward to seeing where this season will take us with a great group of girls.”