By Kyle Daubs
The Apollo Conference doesn’t get any easier.
After taking on baseball heavyweight Teutopolis in its Apollo opener, Charleston has Effingham waiting in the on-deck circle. With a 7-0 record and 1-0 start to the conference season, Effingham is a strong contender for an Apollo title.
Coach Derrick Landrus believes that whomever wins the Apollo won’t be undefeated, but he knows that two losses could knock the Trojans out of contention.
“We would love to get our first win in the conference,” said Landrus. “We know that you will have to be 5-2 to have a chance and that may still not be good enough.”
Effingham brings potentially one of the best pitching rotations in the conference. Effingham has limited teams to an opposing batting average of .192 and owns a team earned run average of 1.40. Two pitchers have combined for 16 innings of work and zero earned runs.
Likely getting the nod in the conference counting game is senior starting pitcher Jackson Lee. Lee is 2-0 record with a 0.00 earned-run average in nine innings of work, issuing five walks, striking out 21 strikeouts, and limiting opposing teams to a .100 batting average.
In the second game, sophomore Josh McDevitt could see the start. McDevitt has worked seven innings, owns a 0.00 earned run average, and has 15 strikeouts to go with a .160 opposing batting average.
“Our pitching staff has done a great job so far this season and I would have to say that is one of our strengths,” said Effingham coach Curran McNeely. “We have a handful of guys that have had the opportunity to throw and they have all stepped up and gotten the job done.”
Landrus knows what a good pitching staff can do to a talented group of hitters. Charleston is 0-1 in the Apollo after dropping its conference opener 17-4. Then, Teutopolis blasted Charleston 16-7 in the second game.
With that said, Landrus believes that the final score does not depict a clear picture of either contest.
“Effingham is going to be tough since they have two of the top pitchers in the conference,” said Landrus. “We feel we can compete with anyone on the schedule when we take the field. Although the scores didn’t show that vs T-Town, one game was 4-4 in the fourth and the other was 9-6 in the fifth. We felt we were in both games, but it was an extremely tough day to pitch with the wind.”
Charleston pitchers will face a talented lineup. Leading the way is Lee with a .400 batting average to go with seven runs batted in, the team’s lone home run and a team-leading .571 on-base percentage.
Outfielder Max Nelson is hitting .417 while sophomore Quest Hall has eight runs batted in. Senior Christian Raddatz is second on the team in on-base percentage at .560 and is tied with senior Preston Lynch with seven drawn walks. Lynch, who is batting just .190, has scored a team-high 10 runs and has stolen eight of the team’s 24 stolen bases.
“Offensively we have had several guys step up as well and string quality at-bats together,” said McNeely, whose team beat Lincoln 6-2. “We had a good game, two pitchers combined to strike out 15 guys, and our bats came through when we needed them to. I think the Apollo is a good conference with quality teams and in baseball, you never know what kind of day you’ll have. I know we will show up and compete for seven innings and, hopefully, end up on the winning side.”
Who: Charleston vs. Effingham
Records: Charleston (9-4, 0-1), Effingham (7-0, 1-0)
Where: Effingham High School
Time: 11 a.m.
Effingham Players to Watch: Jackson Lee (Pitcher), Max Nelson (Outfielder), Preston Lynch (Utility), Christian Raddatz (Outfielder), Quest Hall (Second Baseman)