By Joe Gisondi
Charleston’s Karah Moore scattered three hits to remain undefeated while her teammates rapped 12 hits against another talented pitcher Thursday to capture the IHSA Region A softball championship.
Outfielder Ava Stephens drilled a home run and collected three hits as did teammate Reagan McGahey in the Trojans 8-1 victory over Mattoon – a game that was somewhat similar to the last game these two cross-county rivals played 12 days earlier.
Said McGahey: “We came out poppin.’”
“We knew we had to come out and take care of business,” Moore said.
Charleston scored early and often Thursday night.
Clara Cox doubled to drive in McGahey, who had walked, and Moore, who had singled, in the first inning.
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Ashlynn McPeak drilled a single to center that enabled Addison Shrader to score in the second inning when the third baseman got caught in a rundown between first and second bases after her hit.
McGahey doubled to drive in Ava Stephens, and later scored on Kailyn Wilson’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
Stephens’ two-run home run the following inning chased Morrison from the game and essentially gave Charleston an insurmountable 7-0 lead through three innings. Moore had never allowed that many runs in a game this season. In fact, she had allowed more than three only twice – in a 7-6 win over Mt. Zion and in a three-inning relief role against Mattoon after she had already pitched a complete game in the opener of their doubleheader nearly two weeks earlier.
The sophomore right-hander had entered the game 16-0 with a 1.73 earned run average, striking out 94 in 113 innings — besides also completing a perfect game. She only struck out only one batter, inducing grounders and pop ups, and supported by some great defensive plays by Cox. The sophomore ran down a fly ball by the fence in right field and then raced toward the infield and dived to snare an otherwise certain hit on back-to-back plays to start the fourth inning, one of two innings in which Mattoon was retired in order. Moore never faced more than four batters in any inning.
Morrison, conversely, struggled even though her changeup locked up some Charleston batters early on. The senior right-hander also featured exceptional credentials entering the game – an 8-1 record, 1.37 ERA, two near no-hitters and 73 strikeouts against seven walks. And she was coming off a stellar performance the night before, striking out eight and allowing four hits in a 7-1 victory over Effingham.
“Charleston and Mattoon playing each other every single time, no matter who the better team is athletically or talentwise, it’s always gonna be a battle,” said Mattoon coach Hannah Dow. “They showed up with a lot of energy. They’re at their home field, too. I think we (her players) showed up a little scared.”
Her only two losses have been to Charleston, allowing seven runs on 14 hits.
“I think I get more nervous than they (his players) do,” CHS coach Blain Mayhall said. “So I’m glad that they were pretty calm and played there as a unit as they have all season.”
Charleston (23-3) next plays host next Tuesday to the winner between Waterloo and Mt. Vernon in a Region D final that was postponed until 1 p.m. Saturday. Waterloo advanced by defeating Olney, 4-1, while Mt. Vernon routed Centralia, 11-1.
The sectional opener is set for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. That winner would then compete for the sectional title, followed possibly by a berth in the super-sectional held at the Roundhouse on June 14.