By Mike Monahan
Charleston softball coach Blain Mayhall says this might be the fastest team he has had in a long time.
Faster even than the Charleston team that last played June 1, 2019, when the 30-5 Trojans lost a Class 3A 2019 sectional championship in Decatur.
“We are overall fast from top to bottom,” said Charleston coach Blain Mayhall, who enters his ninth year at 165-64. “We have more speed than usual. “
Charleston also has some impressive power.
Regan McGahey, a senior shortstop, ripped 20 home runs and drove in 102 runs in her first two seasons for a .944 slugging percentage and a 1.480 OPS. She earned third-team all-state after batting .512 and hitting seven homers her sophomore season.
Senior infielder Ava Stephens, a .412 hitter across two seasons, has a career on-base percentage of .526 and a .647 slugging percentage for a 1.115 OPS.
Ashlynn McPeak, a senior outfielder, hit .322 in 2019. Across two seasons, she has compiled an OPS of .833.
“The three returning players, all seniors, can hit for power and they are quick as well,” said Mayhall. “We have several sophomores and freshmen who hit the ball really hard right now, and that is good to see. The other day (in practice) with the wind blowing out the team hit a total of 35 home runs when I was pitching to them. I am glad I don’t have to pitch to them in a live situation.”
Charleston plays host to Champaign Centennial in a season-opening doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m. at Karen Karch Field.
The team, like most, won’t have as many experienced players after last season was canceled for COVID concerns. Charleston, more than most, lost a great number of talented players.
Ramsey Armstrong, Kennedy Fellers, Olivia Hiltebeitel and Emily Price all went on to play in college. Armstrong is at the University of Illinois-Springfield, Fellers at Lincoln Land Community College, Price at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Hiltebeitel is at John A. Logan, the team that snapped Lake Land’s 29-game winning streak earlier this week.
As a result, Mayhall will start seven freshmen and sophomores.
Said Mayhall: “The sophomores and freshmen played a lot of high-level travel ball throughout the year and have faced many good players.”
Sophomore Karah Moore, a right-hander who can throw 61 mph, will start Saturday’s game. “She keeps people of-balance,” Mayhall said.
Another hard-thrower, Kailyn Wilson is developing a change-up to work with a solid curveball.
And both sophomore Mikayla Lane and freshman Addison Shrader are developing a rise and drop ball. “It is nice to have different style pitchers and be able to use them,” Mayhall said.
Mayhall is also impressed with a speedy outfield that, he says, covers a lot of ground. “I would be surprised if too many (hits) get down because they are not getting to it,” he said.
Charleston will play every Apollo Conference team twice, although only the first game of each doubleheader will count in the conference standings.
“We look forward to this talented group of kids taking the field Saturday,” said Mayhall. “We have had some great practices and the team is really bonding and having fun together. It’s great to see.”
Reagan McGahey SS/3B
Ashlynn McPeak CF
Ava Stephens 3B/SS
Erin Blair C/OF
Clara Cox OF/IF
Mikayla Lane 1B/P
Maci Mayhall 2B
Karah Moore P/1B
Emily Davis OF
Kailyn Wilson OF/P
Nora Gannaway OF
Olivia Schuette IF/OF
Addison Shrader OF
Saturday-CHAMPAIGN CENTENNIAL, 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday-at Maroa-Forsyth, 4:30 p.m. followed by jv
April 23-Junior varsity at Mount Zion, 4:30 p.m.
April 24-MONTICELLO, 9 a.m. (jv to follow)
April 26- at Effingham St. Anthony (varsity only), 4:30 p.m.
April 27- TERRE HAUTE, IND, NORTH, 4;30 p.m,. (jv to follow)
April 29-NEWTON, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
April 30-OLNEY, 4;30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 1-at Teutopolis* (varsity only), 11 a.m.
May 3-at Mount Vernon (varsity only), 4 p.m.
May 4-at Centralia (varsity only), 4:30 p.m.
May 8-Effingham*, 10 a.m. (jv to follow)
May 10-at Altamont, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 11-at Mount Zion*, 4:30 p.m. (varsity, DH)
May 13-at Cumberland, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 15-at Mahomet-Seymour*, 11 a.m.(varsity DH)
May 17-at Urbana, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 22-MATTOON*, 11 a.m. (varsity DH)
May 25-at Lincoln*, 4;30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 26-WINDSOR/STEWARDSON-STRASBURG (4:30 p.m. varsity only)
May 27-at Salem, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 28-at Newton, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
May 29-TAYLORVILLE* 11 a.m. (DH)
May 29-TAYLORVILLE (jv, 12;30 p.m.)
June 9-at Paris, 4:30 p.m. (jv to follow)
*Apollo Conference game