Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
The continued onslaught by Mother Nature almost ruined the end of the Charleston and Mattoon doubleheader Saturday at Baker Field.
But the two teams squeezed in both games before it began to pour, with Charleston winning the first game 7-0, and Mattoon taking the second 3-2.
Charleston moved to 2-1 while Mattoon went to 1-1 in their Apollo Conference openers.
Charleston’s Conner Woodley came out sizzling in the opener, sprinkling four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts through 6 2/3 innings.
The Trojans scored twice in the third, fourth and fifth innings and added an insurance run in the sixth.
Woodley had reached his maximum pitch count, and no amount of pleading with head coach Daniel Bennett would change the manager’s decision to bring in Caydin Reed to seal the victory.
“Connor pitched a heck of a game that first game,” Bennett said. “Here’s the thing. We have a lot of good pitchers on this team. It’s going to be like that everyday, hopefully, for us. Just come out and throw strikes. We tell them they have a good defense behind them. So if they throw strikes, we’re going to be in every ball game we play.”
“Their pitcher (Woodley) did real well in the first game,” Mattoon coach Jarod Kiger said. “He kept us off-balance a lot. He mixed up his pitches and had some timely scoring as well to get up. They played real well and we didn’t hit very well in that first game.”
The second game was tied at 6 through six innings when another storm rolled in, sprinkling a light mist across the field as Kyle Sweeney returned for a second inning on the mound.
Sweeney hit Cayden Knierim on his third pitch, and he advanced to second on a pass ball to Kaden Junge, whose single sent Knierim to third. Jackson Helms, pitching almost flawlessly for the Green Wave, helped himself at the plate by doubling in Knierim to give the Green Wave a 3-2 lead.
Helms, who came to the mound with less than 90 pitches accumulated, struck out the first two Charleston batters. Charleston’s Josh Sipes reached base when right fielder Zach Wetzel committed an error boy dropping the ball. Caydin Reed fouled off five pitches before hitting a single to send Sipes to second.
Kiger went to the mound to talk to Helms, knowing the next Charleston batter would be his last. Jeb Vanatta then grounded out on a fielders choice ending the game prompting a fist pump from Helms.
“We did a great job responding in the second game.,” Kiger said. “We got a great effort out of Jack going the complete game and probably maxed out as many pitches in his career. I based my decision on the kid and the intuition and (what) the kid was feeling there at the end.”
Kiger said his squad didn’t come out ready in the first game.
“I think in the first game our approach wasn’t good. He (Woodley) had us off-balance and credit to him with how he was throwing,” he said. “I think we were letting some early pitches go by that were an advantage to him. We let a lot of that happen. And the pitches we were swinging, thy were out of the zone. We had that conversation in between games. If you’re going to swing, at least make it a good pitch. We definitely changed our approach for the better.”
Bennett said he didn’t know how the cold weather would impact the games.
“Bats went a little cold the second game,” he said. “It’s tough weather conditions. We’re happy with the split.”
Mattoon returns to action Tuesday at St. Anthony, while Charleston plays host to Neoga.
WP – Woodley, 6 2/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 3 BB, 7 K.
LP – MacDonald, 4 innings, 2 eared runs, 2 BB, 7 K.
CHARLESTON: Sweeney 2-2, run scored, RBI; Applegate 1-1, run scored, RBI; Patterson 1-1, run scored, RBI.
MATTOON: Bergstrom 2-3; Powers 1-3; MacDonald 1-3.
WP – Helms, 7 innings, 1 earned run, 0 BB, 6 K.
LP – Sweeney, 2 innings, 1 earned run, 1 BB, 2K.
CHARLESTON: Reed 2-4, run scored; Pankey 1-3, RBI; Woodley 1-3, run scored.
MATTOON: Rice 2-4; Bergstrom 1-3, RBI; Helms 1-3, 2B, RBI; Larson 1-3, RBI.