MATTOON — Whatever slow start to the season the Mattoon High School softball team dealt with, the Green Wave has moved past it.
A few rainouts and a getting swept in a doubleheader contributed to a rough start to the season, but on Friday, the Green Wave made a statement. After beating Bloomington 19-4 in the opening game of the Mattoon Invitational, the Green Wave scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and knocked off St. Joseph-Ogden, the No. 2 ranked team in Class 2A, 8-7 to win the tournament title.
“That was definitely a good feeling. It was a whole team effort. Everybody was a part of that game,” Mattoon coach Hannah Dow said. “It took one through 18 on our varsity roster. It’s something they’ve been working for. I think they can now see that they can play with anybody. Just because we lost those first two games doesn’t mean we can’t have a great season.”
Mattoon improves to 4-3 on the season and has won its last three games – two against ranked opponents (Flora and St. Joseph-Ogden).
The win against St. Joseph-Ogden came with Mattoon giving up the lead in the fifth inning. The Spartans scored four runs to take the lead and one more in the sixth, but Mattoon responded with one run in the fifth and three in the sixth to take the lead again.
“They could’ve very easily given up when (St. Joseph-Ogden) scored those four runs and went ahead, but they took it on themselves to stay in the game, and they weren’t going to bow down to them,” Dow said. “They were going to go all out. It was definitely a big confidence booster.”
In the first inning, an error helped the Spartans score a run for a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Mattoon got two runs on two different errors, and another run came across on a wild pitch for a 3-1 lead.
The Spartans loaded the bases with only one out in the fourth inning. Savannah Smith hit a sharp ground ball, but Grace McDowell dove to get the ball, and even though Dukeman scored, Smith was thrown out at first.
“They have some great hitters and any ground ball, I told Grace to sweep it up and go get it no matter hard it is,” Dow said. “After that hard ground ball, I don’t think she took a breath until after she threw it. She just went for it, it was a reaction for her. Definitely a big play for us.”
Abe Lee struck out the next batter as Mattoon kept a 3-2 lead.
“Abe threw a great game. (St. Joseph-Ogden) has great hitters and they are a great team. The defense behind Abe worked,” Dow said.
Mattoon got the run back in the bottom half of the inning. McKenzee Davee led off with a walk and later scored on Kenadie Eaton’s sacrifice fly for a 4-2 Green Wave lead.
In the fifth inning, Hannah Dukeman hit a two-run home run, and an RBI triple by Frankie Izard and an RBI double by Allie Place put the Spartans up 6-4.
In the bottom half of the inning, Avery Risinger doubled and later scored on Delainey Bryant’s bunt single as Mattoon made it a one-run game at 6-5.
The Spartans scored a run on Emmy Graver’s single for a 7-5 lead.
Mattoon had the bottom half of the lineup (six, seven, eight and nine) due up in the bottom of the sixth. Davee led off with a walk, and Lee reached on an error. Grace Conyers then hit a single to bring in a runner. Paige Arthur followed with an RBI single, and a ground ball by Risinger brought in the go-ahead run as Mattoon took an 8-7 lead.
“I don’t think we have a bottom or top half of the lineup because I could put any of them in any spot,” Dow said. “Whether they are cleanup or in the seven, eight or nine spot, it doesn’t mean that you are our weaker hitters. We can hit one through nine. It’s hard for me to make a lineup when I have girls that can hit in any spot, which is a coach’s dream.”
Arthur, who came on in relief in the sixth inning, walked the first two batters in the seventh, but got a ground ball to short, a fly ball to centerfield and a strikeout as Mattoon won 8-7.
“Paige stepped up in those last couple of innings. I asked her if her changeup was working and she said ‘Kinda.’ I asked if she was sure and she said it will be fine,” Dow said. “She got the last out with a strikeout with the changeup.
In the first game, Coffey and Bryant each had an RBI single, and Bryant later scored on an error.
In the second, McDowell and Bella Coffey each hit a two-run home run. Brooklyn Edwards drove in a run with a single, and Conyers doubled to drive in two to make it 11-0.
Bloomington scored four runs in the third.
In the bottom of the fourth, Bri Poehler hit a two-run double and later scored on Davee’s sacrifice bunt. Conyers added an RBI single and Risinger and Bryant each drove in two runs with singles for a 19-4 lead.
Bloomington added two runs in the fifth, but Mattoon got the 19-6 win.