By Kyle Daubs
April 2 or May 28 – Blain Mayhall doesn’t care what day it is.
He just wants to play softball.
So, when asked about playing Coles County rival Mattoon on Saturday to open the Apollo Conference softball season, his answer couldn’t have been more blunt.
“I’m not in charge of scheduling,” said Mayhall. “We will play who is down on the schedule on any given day. We only worry about what we can control. Scheduling is not one of those things.”
Rain and cold weather have combined to cancel games for both teams.
Charleston has only played twice. The Trojans beat Bismarck-Henning, 3-0, to start the season and then defeated Danville, 12-0, on Tuesday.
Charleston, which swept the Apollo Conference with a perfect record last season, will face last season’s runner-up. Charleston lost three key players from last season, who are all playing college softball. That includes Reagan McGahey (Southern Illinois University), Ava Stephens (Lake Land), and Ashlyn McPeak (Danville Community College). McGahey was named First-Team All-State last season, while all three players were All-Apollo.
The team returns one of the best pitchers in the state – junior Karah Moore, who finished fourth in Illinois for wins last season. Moore went 18-1, including 7-0 in the Apollo, across 132 ⅔ innings pitched in which she struck out 108 and posted a 1.74 earned run average. Moore also hit .416 with four home runs, nine doubles, and one base percentage of 1.137.
Moore already owns a 2-0 record this season in 12 innings with 19 strikeouts. Moore, who was an All-Apollo selection, is joined by sophomore Addison Schrader as the other returning all-conference player. Schrader saw herself in the field a lot last season but spent a lot of the offseason working on her pitching. She drove in three runs against Danville.
The Trojans have five starting quality pitchers with Mikayla Lane, Kailyn Wilson, and freshman Emma Morecraft seeing time in the circle.
“We will have to be clicking on all cylinders to win,” said Mayhall. “We’ve only played two games, thus far. If that is any indication, we will need to pick it up offensively. I expect our pitching to be great and our defense to be solid. But we will need to make some things happen offensively from top to bottom in order to beat a good Mattoon team. We must work as a unit, together. We have to have each other’s backs and pick each other up during adverse moments.”
The Green Wave lost starting pitcher Raven Morrison, a first-team selection. Morrison entered the Regional Championship with an 8-1 record, 1.37 earned run average, two near-no hitters, and 73 strikeouts against seven walks. The team also lost First-Team All-Apollo selections in Delainey Bryant and Xylia Greeson. Bryant is currency playing softball at Illinois State University. Tinley Risinger and Hannah Hopper also graduated last year.
But Mattoon returns Ivie Edwards, an Apollo Second-Team selection last season. The Green Wave are going to rely on up-and-comers from the JV program. That includes Cadance McDaniel, Emma Longcor, Abby Mathias, and Edwards, who are all seniors. All four players have played on the team for four years, while Alexis Denning rounds out the senior group.
“I honestly think we just need to treat the game like any other game and have confidence in ourselves,” said Mattoon coach Jennifer Saucier. “We need to wait for good pitches and jump on them when we get them. As long as we can get runners on, we have to capitalize and move them around when we get the opportunities. They are always a tough team. It’ll be important to have a solid defense behind our pitcher. We have had some great practices lately and I’m very proud of how hard they have been working and am excited to see what we can do on the ball field this season.”
This will be Saucier’s first go at the rivalry as a head coach.
“Mattoon vs Charleston is always be a great matchup,” said Mayhall. “ I know that they have some offensive power coming back, along with two of their pitchers from last year. Jen will do a great job with her team and have them ready to play. “
Who: Mattoon vs. Charleston
Records: Mattoon (0-0, 0-0) vs. Charleston (2-0, 0-0)
Where: Roundhouse Softball Complex
Time: 11 a.m.
Players to Watch: Karah Moore (CHS junior), Addison Schrader (CHS sophomore), Blair Ritchey (CHS freshman), Ivie Edwards (MHS senior), Cadence McDaniel (MHS senior), Emma Longcor (MHS senior)