By Kyle Daubs
Mattoon coach Jarod Kiger says pitching will be paramount when the team begins its postseason this afternoon in the Class 3A Centralia Regional quarterfinals.
The Green Wave (9-18, 5-7 in Apollo), the No. 9 seed, will face No. 7 Centralia. The winner plays No. 1 seed Marion on Wednesday.
No. 5 Charleston plays No. 4 Effingham on Wednesday as well.
On a Green Wave staff that has a combined 4.99 earned run average and allowed teams to score in double-digits more than eight times, Jarrett Muchow stands out.
The sophomore right-hander has a 1.47 ERA in seven games, boasting a 3-1 record. In 33 1/3 innings, Muchow has struck out 26, walked 12 and allowed 19 hits. More importantly, he has allowed only seven earned runs.
“As for the postseason, pitching will be of the utmost importance,” said Kiger. “The challenge of limiting mistakes and keeping pitch counts down will be important.”
Chandler Melton, a senior, has the next best ERA at 4.20 across 15 innings.
Junior Jackson Helms, who has worked the most innings (37 1/3), has struck out 32.
Luke MacDonald also has a team-high 32 strikeouts, averaging nearly 1.5 per inning. The senior left-hander has struggled, at times, with control, walking 29 across 22 1/3 innings for a 5.64 ERA.
Mistakes have applied additional pressure to the staff, allowing 41 unearned runs – roughly 1.5 per game.
“When you play fundamentally sound and limit your own mistakes, you always have a chance of success,” said Kiger. “However, we have also had some games in which we shoot ourselves in the foot and things spiral out of control. Our team has done a great job of staying together through a tough season and they should be commended for that, as many teams will implode when wins are at a premium.”
Zach Wetzel leads MHS with 23 hits, a he has a .333 batting average and .858 OPS (.420 OBP + .438 slugging pct). Cooper Bergstrom leads the team with 13 RBIs.
Casey Knierim is tied with Muchow with a team-best 1.071 OPS. (.533/.538) in 76 plate appearances. Muchow has 15 at-bats.
Mattoon is batting. 232 as a team with a .645 OPS.
“Simply basing the game on stats and records,” Kiger said, “I believe it is anyone’s game to take. One of our biggest challenges this season has been consistent play. Throughout the season, in games where we played up to our potential, we have had success.”
Mattoon, which has lost eight of its past nine games, beat Lincoln 3-2 in extra innings last weekend for the only recent victory. In the team’s struggles down the stretch, the team has been outscored 74-24 in those final nine games.
The Green Wave plays its best in late April during a five-game win streak in which they allowed only five total runs. Muchow tossed a two-hitter against Taylorville to cap it off.
Centralia, which lost three of its final four games, is 12-16 with a 4-6 mark in the South Seven Conference.
Tyler O’Neil, at 6-5, leads Centralia’s pitching staff with a 1.05 ERA, allowing nine earned runs and striking out in 66 in 60 innings. O’Neil has also limited opponents to a .231 average and he has a 1.13 WHIP. Jace Hughes is next best with a 2.42 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 19 strikeouts in 17-plus innings.
Jeremy Dalton leads the team in hitting with a .281 average and a .752 OPS, which is second only to Caleb Wright, a .209 hitter who has a team-best OPS of .769.
Like Mattoon, Centralia does not rely on the long ball. The Annies have hit four home runs, two more than MHS.
“We have a fiesty team and next week,” Kiger said “we will compete, as we always do, and see if what we bring to the table is enough to advance.”