By Tom Williams
After the Convoy Crestview softball defeated Mathews for the Knights’ second state championship, assistant coach Carl Etzler said he wouldn’t be surprised if they played the Mustangs again.
“They are a real nice young team,” said Etzler of the Mustangs, who lost 6-2 in Saturday’s Division IV championship game at Firestone Stadium. “They have a great future.”
In their first state trip, the Mustangs threw a scare into the more experienced Knights when Olivia Rhodanz’s bloop single in the fourth inning scored Jenna Seifert, slicing their deficit to 3-2.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” admitted freshman pitcher Terra Crowle who opposed the Mustangs’ freshman Cheyenne Eggens. “But when the infield came in to talk to me, they calmed me down.”
Crowle (15-2) retired 10 of the final 11 Mathews batters to seal the victory.
“It just wasn’t our game,” Mathews junior catcher Hollie Shreves said. “They were a good team — we just lost today. That happens.”
The Knights (28-5) were making their 10th trip to state and are 2-3 in championship games.
The Mustangs (25-6) were the surprise of the tournament, trailing last year’s state runners-up by just one run in the sixth inning.
“It’s just a tremendous group of girls and I could not be more proud of the accomplishments that they have — one of the few Trumbull County teams to make it this far,” said first-year Mathews coach Jim Nicula who has all of his starters returning.
“We are disappointed, because we don’t like to lose,” Nicula said. “We’re going to mourn a little bit here, but we’re also going to celebrate once we get over that.
“We’re young — we’re going to start our tradition this year.”
Eggens (24-4) threw 141 pitches, allowed six hits and struck out 11 batters.
“[She] was really good, especially for a freshman,” Knights senior second baseman Maddie Etzler. “She had a good change and curve. And her riseball was pretty good.”
Etzler walked twice and scored two runs as the Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead. She also hit a solo homer in the seventh inning.
In the second inning, Crowle’s double to deep left field scored Etzler for an early lead.
An inning later, Dani Hicks was hit by a pitch before Etzler’s second walk. Both scored when Taylor Springer tripled to right-center field for a 3-0 edge.
In the Mustangs’ third inning, Tabby Granelly tripled down the right-field line and scored when shortstop Holly Genth bobbled a relay throw.
Fortune was on the Knights’ side in the sixth inning when the Mustangs struggled with bunts. After Crowle hit a one-out single, catcher Shreves couldn’t hold on to Hicks’ bunt attempt on a 1-2 count.
“It was in my glove and it rolled out,” Shreves said. “With two strikes on her, I probably shouldn’t have gone for the superstar dive, just let it roll foul, she would have been out.
“But in the heat of the moment, you’re like ‘Oh, ball, got it,’ “ Shreves said.
Nicula reminded her, “You were trying to make a play.”
First baseman Maddie Grimes then overran Mackenzie Richard’s bunt to load the bases. Consecutive ground outs scored two runs for a 5-2 lead.
“I’m honestly not disappointed in my team at all,” Granelly said. “Nobody [else] thought we were going to get this far.
“When we said we were going to still be playing in June, everybody looked at us like we were dumb. So honestly, I think we learned a lot of lessons today.”