The Green Wave are starting to settle in, while Mount Zion sees a chance to keep pace for the Apollo Conference title. With a Charleston loss, Mount Zion is tied with the Trojans at the top of the conference. Meanwhile, Mattoon has strung together some quality games and is battling for .500.

Here is a preview of Friday’s game

Team Records: Mattoon (4-6, 2-4) vs. Mount Zion (9-5, 3-1)

Where: Roundhouse Softball Complex

School Size: Mattoon (930), Mount Zion (763)

First pitch: 4 p.m.

Opponent’s History: Mount Zion is led by Hall of Fame coach Greg Blakey. In 29 years, Blakey has over 700 career wins with the Braves, who he has coached since 1992. Blakey owns 18 Regional Championships, five Sectional Championships, and two-state appearances, which includes a third and fourth-place finish in the last five years. Last season, the Braves won a Regional. 

Mount Zion’s Past Results: The Braves scored 31 combined runs in wins over Oakwood and Champaign Central. Then, the team dropped an 11-inning thriller, 7-6, to Casey-Westfield, and a 5-3 loss to Windsor-Stew-Stras. After a win over Decatur MacArthur, Mount Zion lost their conference opener 14-4 to Effingham but won the second game 8-7. Mount Zion is coming off two blowout wins over Taylorville and has wins over Rochester, Monticello, and Cumberland with two losses to Teutopolis and Normal West. 

Mount Zion’s Top Players: Junior Dakota Harrison leads the team on average with .528. Harrison is joined by junior Kyla Schnippel as the two players over .500. Schnippel leads the team with 18 runs batted in, while Harrison has 16. Sophomore Audri Johnson has 15 runs batted in. Leadoff hitter, senior Gwen Bender, leads the team with 19 runs scored and 16 hits. Schnippel owns eight doubles, while Harrison has two home runs. On the mound, Harrison has pitched 56.1 innings and owns a 4-2 record with a 3.60 earned run average with 58 strikeouts. 

“Kyla Schnippel, Dakota Harrison, Gwen Bender, and Audri Jonhson have been our most consistent hitters this season,” said Blakey. “Dakota Harrison has carried the load for us pitching wise so far.”

Mount Zion’s Team Stats:  As a team, the Braves hit .378 and own a team-earned run average of 4.10. 

Mattoon’s Past Results: Last weekend, Mattoon split an Apollo series with Effingham. Mattoon beat Effingham 10-9 in the first game but was then blown out 14-2 in the second game. On Tuesday, Mattoon picked up a 5-3 win over St. Joseph Ogdon. 

“Honestly, the key that I have been telling the girls all season is that as long as we play together and pick each other up, we are a tough team to beat,” said head coach Jennifer Saucier. “Softball is a game that is so important to be mentally tough. When we have confidence in ourselves, we come up with big plays on defense and come up with big hits to move runners around the bases to score.” 

Mattoon’s Team Stats: Sophie Artis leads the team in batting average at .393. Ivie Edwards and Cadance McDaniel are tied for the lead in hits with 13. Artis leads the team with nine runs batted in and is tied with Edwards, Abby Mathias, and Emma Longcor with three doubles. Both Edwards and Artis own a home run this season. On the mound, Edwards leads the team with a 3-4 record, 25 strikeouts and 4.58 earned run average in 36.2 innings. 

What Mount Zion Said: “We play a very good schedule against some quality teams,” said Blakey. “My hope is that a tough schedule will make us better by the end of the year. We have been inconsistent so far this year and have not been able to put all threeephases of the game together at one time. We will have to play a complete game in all three phases of the game. Mattoon is too good for us to play poorly in any of those three phases and still win. We must be at our best.”

What Mattoon Said: “Mt. Zion is always a tough team to beat,” said Saucier. “Our goal is just going to be to come in ready to put up a fight and focus on executing on offense and making sure we back up our pitchers on defense. Keeping the energy up is going to be key to beating a good team like Mt. Zion. I have full confidence that we can get it done.”