By Will Simmons
Mattoon scored six runs late, but another slow start enabled host Champaign Central to walk away with a 9-6 baseball victory Monday.
The Green Wave (7-13) have now lost three in a row and four of their past five during which they have been outscored 55-12. Mahomet post innings of six and seven runs in a sweep last weekend. Taylorville scored four in a 10-4 win over MHS and Mt Vernon scored that many twice in a 10-0 win.
Like in those losses, the big inning hurt Mattoon again Monday.
A six-run fourth inning enabled Central to go ahead 9-0 and on the way to what seemed to be an easy win.
Mattoon fought back in the final two innings, scoring three in the sixth and seventh, but could not get closer than three. Logan MacDonald’s double started a rally in the sixth. He drilled a pitch to the warning track, just left of the 340-foot mark on the centerfield fence, to drive in two runs.
“I just really needed to get a piece of something, and it felt pretty good,” MacDonald said.
On average, Mattoon has scored most runs in the sixth (0.72) and seventh (1.07) innings, according to MaxPreps.
“I think we could have started a little hotter, get a couple more hits and really just push ourselves along,” MacDonald said. “I think we struggle with that a little bit, starting off hot. We kinda have to work for it.”
The fact Mattoon is a late-inning team is not lost on MHS coach Jarod Kiger.
“Down 9-0, a lot of times, you know, you get teams that may roll over,” Kiger said. “We kept fighting and fighting. We had guys on every inning, I thought that was a step in the right direction.”
Green Wave third baseman Cooper Bergstrom (.228) added to the rally in the seventh with two of his three RBIs, on top of a three-hit game.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit lately, so it’s been good to get the bat on the ball and put something hard in play,” Bergstrom said. “Just felt good to get back to doing what I think I can do. I think we need to, with these games, just come out with a little more confidence from the start and just start a little hotter, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Mattoon’s offense in the sixth made it seem like Central (22-5) would have a tough time ending the top of the inning. The Green Wave scored three runs on two outs and Cayden Knierim took a walk to load the bases. Kaiden Rice, though, couldn’t beat the pick-off throw whipped back to third, and was called-out to end the rally.
“During the whole game we had some base runners, and we had a couple unfortunate little plays where we lost some runs,” Bergstrom said. “I mean, it’s just the big things — just getting runners on base and (doing) that every inning, and just executing on that stuff. We have the guys to do that. I think, going forward, we can see what we did today and kind of build off that.”
Kiger said the play at third was a learning opportunity for the team. He thought Rice may have been safe, but “they’re not going to overturn on that.”
“That one play didn’t beat us,” Kiger said, “but you know, momentum-wise, bases loaded with your cleanup guy — you really want those situations.”