CHARLESTON -- While neither Mattoon nor Charleston started the Apollo Conference baseball season with a perfect record, neither one of them started winless, either.
After Mattoon took the first game 3-2 in eight innings, Charleston earned the split with a 6-3 win in six innings over the Green Wave in the second game.
The split was only Charleston's first loss of Apollo play (3-1). It was the first Apollo doubleheader for Mattoon, which is 1-1 in the conference.
So both teams start the season with a 1-1 record in Apollo play, meaning neither team is in a big hole after the first two conference games.
“You have to (get the split) to stay in the race. We felt we could’ve won two,” Landrus said. “First one was a good game, we just couldn’t come up with the big hit. Errors hurt us, but those happen. The guys will come through. They’ve been good all year. We are happy with the way we are playing. I’ve said all year long, we feel like we are going to be in a lot of close games and we hope the close ones go our way and we make plays and guys step up. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’ve had a lot of fun so far.”
Charleston’s Wes Harrell played a key role in the split. He started the second game and struck out nine batters in four innings as Charleston built a 6-1 lead. Harrell drove in three of those runs, including a two-run single in the fourth inning.
“He was good. Second time he’s been good and he came up with a big hit,” Landrus said. “With a 4-1 lead, bit opportunity there. We wasted some opportunities and he came up and made it 6-1 and that was huge. As much as his pitching, that hit stands out to me.”
Harrell said it was key to get the split.
“Going down in the first game, I knew it would be close in the second game. I just had to come in and hit my spots and get outs,” Harrell said. “I was just staying relaxed. The fastball in the side corner, it didn’t seem like they wanted to hit it and I just kept pounding it and they didn’t want it.”
Mattoon was coming off a big 9-2 win over Paris on Monday, but coach Mark Jackley didn’t think the team put the same at-bats together on Tuesday.
“This team is capable of good at-bats. I thought offensively, it just wasn’t our day,” Jackley said. “We looked at too many strikes, we didn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities in both games. Teams are going to pitch around Garrette (Branson) this year and we have to have other guys who have to come through for us.”
In the first game, Cam Knierim reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch to put the Green Wave up 1-0 in the first inning. In the third inning, Knierim reached on a walk and scored on a grounder for a 2-0 lead.
Charleston scored in the bottom half of the inning when Keagan Brady, who led off with a double, scored on Blake Bonnstetter’s RBI single to make it 2-1.
The Trojans tied it up in the sixth when Wes Harrell’s single brought in Luke Buescher to make it 2-2.
The game went to extra innings and Knierim drew his fourth walk of the game. Branson later singled to left to score Knierim to put Mattoon up 3-2.
Charleston got a two-out single, but Mattoon held on for the first game win. Jackson Nichols and Jacob Spitz combined to hold Charleston to two runs in the game.
“Pleased with the first game win. Our pitching, Jackson and Jacob really did a nice job,” Jackley said. “That’s definitely the positive, that our pitching was so good. We gutted that first game out and that was a good win.”
Landrus thought Chase Staggs, Dylan Smith and Luke Buescher all pitched well in the first game.
“Staggs was really good again I thought. Dylan did the job and Luke came in, tough day to come in,” Landrus said. “Our pitching was good all day, walked some here and there, but I am happy with the pitching.”
The Trojans got back-to-back hits to open the bottom of the first and Buescher scored on Harrell’s single to left field for a 1-0 lead.
“That was big considering we only scored two (in the first game),” Harrell said. “Just getting up early and staying ahead was a big key.”
In the second inning, Seth Higgins led off with a single and scored on Nick Dillon’s RBI double. Dillon later scored on Bonnstetter’s groundout for a 3-0 lead.
Higgins drew a two-out walk in the third and then came around on a double steal as Charleston went up 4-0.
Mattoon’s Cayden Collings singled and later scored on a grounder to make it a 4-1 game in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Harrell hit a two-run single for a 6-1 lead.
Branson cut into Charleston’s lead in the fifth inning with a two-run home run, making it a 6-3 game.
That’s all Mattoon got as Charleston got the win.
“Mentally the second game, it just seemed like we were tired. Mentally, we weren’t into that second game,” Jackley said. “We talked afterward about how the second game is just as important as the first game and we have to keep our drive and concentration up for that second game.”