Mathews defeated McDonald 11-1 to win the Division IV Northeast 1 district.
Olivia Matheny on the rubber for Mathews was the game. Matheny allowed one hit and struck out 14 McDonald hitters. Mathews head coach Jim Nicula anticipated it from the sophomore ace.
“She’s the ultimate competitor,” he remarked. She’s confident and high-motor. She pitched more games late in the season. She is currently our best pitcher. She’s in charge and getting things done.”
Mathews started the game offensively but erupted in the third. Nicula praised McDonald’s starter Isabella O’Brien, who left early.
Mustangs win third consecutive district title.
“Isabella O’Brien is a great pitcher. I never imagined knocking her out mid-game. Nicula predicted a 1-0 or 2-1 game.
Mathews capitalized on McDonald errors and well-timed hits in the third. Senior Gianna Toto singled and Matheny doubled to score four Mustangs. After the double, Gianna Mancini calmed Mathews’ bats.
“We didn’t miss a beat,” Nicula remarked. “We kept going and they’re buying into my small-ball philosophy of ‘put the ball in play and good things will happen.’ Make the opposing team err. It was teamwork.”
Matheny’s double and two-run home run helped Mathews reach the 10-run mercy limit offensively. She went 2-for-3 with a walk, double, home run, and three RBIs. Mustangs Maddy Hufford tripled and Kennedy Newsome doubled and singled.
As the team’s lone upperclassman, Toto had to demonstrate the younger players how to win district championships.
As a senior and leader, she had to guide the females. “My team supported me and we were ready to roll.”
Toto praised O’Brien’s pitching before the game. For Wednesday’s game, Mathews practiced hitting different pitches.
“O’Brien is a great pitcher. Tot said, “She moves a lot.” “Keeping our energy and heads up was one of the most important things we had to work on.”
Wednesday, Mathews anticipated O’Brien’s difficulties. Nicula noted O’Brien’s success on the outer half of the plate earlier in the season and suggested taking the plate away from her.
“We wanted to take away her curveball success and force her to pitch inside on us,” he added. We put the ball in play early and made things happen. When things go your way and not theirs, confidence drops and wheels fall off. Cool kids. Young but having fun. Good things happen when you play freely.”
Matheny said her performance Wednesday was an honor.
“We’re carrying on a legacy,” Matheny remarked. I love being on the mound with my daughters. It’s thrilling and I need my squad. We worked well. We practiced ball placement. The next game requires energy, emotion, and collaboration. Just play together.”
Head coach Michelle Titus stated McDonald had a good season. McDonald won some close games this season, and an injury forced player changes.
The squad only has 10 girls, so that was challenging. Good season. “District runner-up and (Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference) champions,” Titus added.
McDonald only loses two seniors, therefore most of the squad returns. Next season, Titus remarked, strength and experience will matter.
McDonald has good chicks. Seniors will be missed. She stated, “They bring a lot and we’ll see next year.”
Titus lauded Mathews. She claimed the game strategy was Mustang bat control.
They whacked the ball hard. She stated they hit well. “We were ready but failed.”