Charleston softball coach Blain Mayhall had said his players would need to play nearly flawlessly to beat Mt. Zion in order to have a chance to repeat as Apollo Conference softball champs.
“Mt. Zion is going to hit and play great defense,” Mayhall said late last week. “We are going to have to match them hit for hit and back up our pitchers in the field. We will also have to limit mistakes up to bat, on the bases, in the circle and on the field. If we can do those things, we give ourselves a chance to win. As far as pressure, it’s a matter of being mentally tough. We need to create the pressure as opposed to succumbing to it. The girls need to own those big moments and know that they are stepping up for their team when placed in a tough spot. They are all very capable of doing that, but will need to have that positive, mentally tough mindset.”
Bolstered by solid pitching and strong hitting, the Trojans did just that Tuesday, sweeping the Braves, 8-3 and 7-4, to remain atop the Apollo Conference standings, tied with Mahomet with two losses.
Charleston (21-5 overall) and Mahomet had split their two-game series on April 16, the Trojans rallying from an 8-0 loss to post a 5-2 victory in Game 2. The Bulldogs, though, had opened the season with a loss to Lincoln, 3-2. CHS stumbled against Effingham, losing 7-1 on April 30 before rallying for a 9-4 win in Game 2.
So now Charleston is 8-2 entering its final conference series Saturday against Taylorville, now 1-9 after getting blown out by a combined 27-2 in a doubleheader Tuesday with Mattoon. Mt Zion drops to 6-4.
Mahomet, at 6-2, still has two difficult series remaining – against Mt. Zion and Mattoon, which is now 3-5 in the Apollo.
Karah Moore threw a 5-hitter, hit her team-best ninth home run and drove in three runs to lead CHS to an 8-3 victory in the opener Tuesday. Erin Blair hit her seventh homer while Addison Shrader scored three times.
Kailyn Wilson hit her fourth home run and struck out three batters across 4 1/3 innings to help the Trojans win the second game, 7-4. Moore drove in three more runs and threw the final 2 2/3 innings to secure the save while Shrader scored three more runs and collected a team-high three hits, along with two RBIs.
“We had discussed matching their offensive output, making sure we hit spots in the circle, and playing clean defense,” Mayhall said after the game. “We did all those things. Playing errorless ball for two games against Mt. Zion is very important, so I was extremely happy that we did that. Our pitching was great, as usual. We have discussed being consistent w/ our offense. Every starter had a hit in game one and seven of them in game two. Some big home runs from Ads, Karah, Erin and Kailyn were great to see, along with everyone getting on base to help keep pressure on their defense. I was extremely pleased with our approach last night in all aspects. We are starting to really click at the right time.”
Moore is now hitting a team-high .488, followed by Shrader (.418), Maci Mayhall (.411) and Wilson (.393). The junior also leads the team with 32 RBIs, a .942 slugging percentage and is one of three players with at least 10 plate appearance to have an on-base-plus-slugging percentage above 1.000 for a team-high 1.493 OBP. Wilson (1.142) and Shrader (1.090) are the others.
Besides the series with Taylorville this weekend, Charleston has four other non-conference games remanning.