By Kyle Daubs

Coles County has a Saturday full of competitive baseball. So let’s dive right into the action. 

Baseball: Effingham (10-4, 3-0) vs. Mattoon (6-6, 2-1)

Game Information: 11 a.m. start at Grimes Field 

A win puts Mattoon back into the Apollo Conference conversation and it will be at one of the best ballparks in Central Illinois. A site change has moved the conference doubleheader to Grimes Field. Effingham will be a tough draw, ranked No. 5 team in Class 3A. 

“Honestly I haven’t paid much attention to any rankings so I can’t really comment on that,” said Effingham coach Curran McNeely. “Our pitching has done a good job of just competing and attacking hitters. We’ve been successful at getting ahead of hitters and challenging guys on first pitch.”

Effingham brings the best player in the Apollo so far in senior Jackson Lee, who has started the season with 20 straight scoreless innings. Along with his 0.00 earned run average, Lee owns 35 strikeouts to seven walks. He is also their best hitter at the plate with a .324 batting average, three home runs, 15 runs scored, and 15 runs batted in. 

“Effingham is a very quality team,” said Mattoon head coach Jarod Kiger. “From looking at scores and stats, they are solid from top to bottom.  They certainly have a couple of the top arms in the conference.  When facing high end pitching, you have to have a discipline approach at the plate and make the most out of each at-bat.  You cannot swing at bad pitches and must force them to work.”

Kellen Reardon could get the start in the second game. Reardon brings a 0.51 earned run average and a 2-1 overall record. Overall, the Hearts pitching staff owns a 1.74 team ERA. 

“If you look at the stats our strike percentage has been good along with our first pitch strike percentage,” said McNeely. “When we get ahead early and stay ahead we have typically been successful. I haven’t had much opportunity to look at Mattoon. It seems that they have been putting big numbers up and have been on a roll recently.”

As a team, Effingham is hitting .292. Despite a .194 batting average, senior Christian Raddatz owns 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored. Preston Lynch has stolen nine bases, while sophomore Max Nelson and Quest Hall own 12 and 11 hits a piece. 

Mattoon is coming off a Tuesday win over Mahomet-Seymour and a 10-8 win over Casey-Westfield. A win would bring Mattoon to over .500 on the season for the first time. Senior starter, Meade Johnson, has been pitching some of his best baseball as of late. The potential of a true ace versus ace has Kiger very excited about Mattoon’s chances.

“I believe that Meade is as good as any starter in the conference and has gotten stronger as the season has progressed,” said Kiger. “When he toes the rubber, we have a great opportunity to be successful.  I’m looking forward to watching two great arms battle.  We have been playing better as of late because we have been able to improve our approach at the plate, while eliminating some of the mental mistakes that plagued us early in the year.  We must continue stay locked in and play unselfish, team baseball.  It has potential to be a great day of baseball. “

Charleston (15-4, 1-2) vs. Mahomet (7-6, 1-2)

Game Information: 11 a.m. start at Marty Pattin Field

Charleston has had a bounce-back week. CHS opened with an 8-5 win over the No. 1 ranked team in Class 1A, Effingham St. Anthony. Then, the team scored five unearneed runs to rally to a 5-4 win over Mount Zion to secure their first Apollo win. On Thursday, Charleston secured a 7-4 win over Cumberland.

“We’ve one a couple in a row that we’re pretty ugly,” said head coach Derrick Landrus. “We usually get two or three of those in a year.   Ours just happened to come back to back.  Mahomet seems to be putting up some runs and are always a very tough opponent with athletes at most every position.    We are looking forward to getting back to playing a little sharper brand of baseball.” 

Mahomet-Seymour, enters on a two-game losing streak. The Bulldogs were defeated by Mattoon 15-9 on Tuesday and then lost to Oakwood 9-6 on Thursday.

“Season has been up and down due to missing football guys and now wrestling guys,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Nic DiFilippo. “When we have everyone, we are solid. When we are missing guys, we have holes. Mattoon played well and we were not able to throw strikes late in the game and gave them too many walks.  We let one get away.”

Blake Wolter enters with a team-leading .571 batting average. Nate McFall (.385), Carter Selk (.375), and Chase Wager (.313) appear to be middle of the order hitters.

“Charleston is always a solid program,” said DiFilippo. “They usually have great pitching and I hear they swing the bats pretty well. It should be a good game.”