Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.

While Mattoon’s 15-hit barrage led the charge, it was the defense that shone bright in the Greenwave’s 10-0 win over Richland County in the IHSA Class 3A quarterfinals Monday afternoon.

Mattoon (13-16-1) advances to face Marion Wednesday. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Charleston/Effingham semifinal for the Olney regional championship.

Jack Helms managed well from the mound for three innings with help from first baseman Cayden Knierim, who fielded two grounders and tossed them to his pitcher for the first two outs of the third inning.

“This year, first base hasn’t been much of a hotspot,” Knierim said. “Today, a couple things changed and I got a lot more balls than I usually do, but I was ready.”

He credits summer ball work for good communication.

“Me and Jack played summer ball the last couple years together, so I feel like our communication is a lot better than most teams,” he said. “We just know each other really well.”

The righty walked the bases loaded in the fourth inning with one out, only to induce Richland County’s Carter Tolliver into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning — and any hopes of a Tigers combeback.

“I was cruising for three innings and then I came in on the fourth inning and couldn’t find the strike zone for a little bit,” he said. “We rolled a double play to get out of it. Those guys are really good behind me.”

Helms credits his defense.

“I trust them,” Helms said. “I can throw it low in the zone and let teams hit it and they’ll make the play. They always have.”

Helms got back on track afterward, surrending just the one hit and allowing three walks and six strikeouts in five innings.

Richland County’s Rolen Wilson took the loss after allowing 15 hits and 10 runs, nine of them earned.

Knierim made another solid play in the fifth, robbing Brett Kocher of an extra-base hit for the last out of the inning.

Mattoon, already ahead 8-0, scored two more runs in the bottom half of the inning. Jason Skocy slid home for the final run after having singled, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

“Bats came alive today,” Helms said. “We’ve been waiting for it a little bit. We’ve been hitting the ball well, but today we found some gaps.”

“Jack is a really good pitcher,” Knierem said. “In earlier games, we haven’t been able to help him much, but today we really helped him out a lot. It feels good to help out your pitcher.”

Greenwave third baseman Kaden Junge led the charge going 3-for-3, two of those for doubles, driving in two runs and scoring three times.