By Kyle Daubs
With a full team, Mattoon has some of its momentum back.
Missing several key players, Mattoon limped to an 0-3 start to the season.
After players returned from other sports, Mattoon swept defending Apollo champions Mount Zion in a doubleheader sweep Saturday.
“Having everyone back to start off conference weekend was great,” said Mattoon coach Hannah Dow. “I am proud of these girls for working hard and putting in some extra time to focus on the things we needed to improve on after our slow 0-3 start. We have done a little more team bonding as this group hasn’t really had the chance to play with each other. This has helped with our upperclassmen getting to know the younger girls and vice versa.”
Mattoon took down Mount Zion 4-2 in the conference opener and then 6-1 in the second game. Senior Raven Morrison tossed seven innings, allowing one earned run with four strikeouts. Morrison is hitting .294 average with four runs scored and three stolen bases.
Sophomore Emily Enlow allowing just one earned run in seven innings as well. It was a nice rebound for a team that entered the weekend with a team earned run average of 6.39.
“Starting off the conference with a big win over Mt. Zion has kinda set the tone for the rest of our season,” said Dow. “The girls came out with a lot of energy, they had each other’s backs, and, most importantly, they had fun just going out there and playing. The pitchers did a great job moving the ball around and trusting their defense. We had a few errors in the field, but we were able to let that go and quickly move on to the next play. They were able to make the small adjustments at the plate and communication was key in that game.”
Mattoon’s lineup has also returned to rhythm. Tinley Rinsinger leads the team with an overall .444 batting average and Xylia Greeson is at a .400 clip while is tied with Delainey Bryant for a team-leading four runs batted in. Bryant is batting .389 with seven hits.
This could be a bad sign for a Taylorville pitching staff that has allowed 59 runs in its last four games to Tri-City, Chatham Glenwood and Mahomet-Seymour (doubleheader).
“We play a lot of tough competition,” first-year Taylorville coach Megan Rhodes said. “It has been a team effort each game. We are young with the majority of our starters being freshman and sophomores. We have a lot of learning to do but with each game we show a little more improvement.”
Last week, Taylorville dropped a doubleheader to Mahomet-Seymour, 17-0 and 20-4.
“Mahomet-Seymour were both tough games for us,” said Rhodes. “We started doing things right and stringing hits together in the second game. We hung in there until the fifth inning and we just started to run out of gas in the pitching department. They are a great hitting team. We will just keep pushing through.”
Dow says that Mattoon is focused on moving to 2-0 in the Apollo Conference and back to over .500 overall.
“I know the Apollo Conference is tough, so I am sure every team is going to show up ready to compete,” said Dow. “I don’t do a lot of scouting as no matter who is on the other side of the field, we really can only control what we do in the games. We have to focus on our approach and maximizing our opportunities at the plate and doing the little things right on the field and we will be able to compete with just about anyone. I am confident that our girls will come out with a lot of energy as it is our first conference game in front of our home crowd.”
Taylorville, (2-4, 0-1) has lost four in a row after starting the season with wins over Springfield and Hillsboro.
“I tell the girls each game to focus on their job and position for the day,” said Rhodes. “If each girl gives it the best they can and improves each game, that is all I ask for. As a first year coach, my goal for the girls is to just to continue to improve and try to compete in every game. We would love a conference win. We know we have a very tough and competitive conference so it will be no easy task for us.”
Who: Mattoon vs. Taylorville
Records: Mattoon (2-3, 1-0) vs. Taylorville (2-4, 0-1)
Where: Roundhouse Softball Complex
Time: 11 a.m.