Pate throws no-hitter in 12-0 victory

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mathews junior Ava Shugart slides into third base during the team’s 12-0 victory on Monday.

JOHNSTON — Mathews rode a hot start, scoring five runs in the opening inning to take down league rival Maplewood in a 12-0 victory over the Rockets.

“We played three really, really good teams this weekend. Two of them are probably going to be in regionals if not state Final Four. A lot of times there’s a big emotional letdown after that, but no, they came out of the gate and got some runs right in the first inning,” Mathews coach Jim Nicula said. “Ashia (Pate) did a very good job in the circle, she’s been very consistent, keeping things on track when she’s in there. A lot of you know first strike counts and stuff like that. That was just a good start, and a little bit of dead space in there, but you’ll have that.”

Pate hurled a shutout against the Rockets, and helped record a force out at home that would have given Maplewood its first run of the game. Pate pitched a lot over the weekend, so fatigue set in late, but the plan is to give her a rest in today’s game against Bloomfield.

“She pitched a lot this week. We elected to use her a little more this weekend than what was originally planned,” Nicula said. “She pitched parts of three games and one full game, so she got a little tired there, maybe at the end, but we’ll give her a rest tomorrow and go to somebody else on the staff and we’ll have a showdown on Wednesday with Pymatuning Valley.”

Nicula is gearing his girls up for a state run. Even after big wins, the longtime Mustangs coach employs his tough, but fair attitude in the postgame speech. Mathews is aiming higher than wins in April, so Nicula holds his team to a higher standard.

There’s a lot of elements that go into a final four trip, and upholding a standard is a major part of it.

“Honestly, luck comes into it. You’ve got to get lucky with staying healthy. The matchups that you get, given who you’re going to play at what time and different things and that, and just a hunger and a belief and confidence. I mean, it always comes down to confidence,” Nicula said. “Again, they’re still 15, 16, in some cases 14-year old kids, Failures are hard to handle. Especially for teenagers. It’s just keeping that confidence up and getting them to believe in themselves that they can do it. It’s easy to do when things are going well but when things are going rough, that makes it tougher, so that’s just confidence.”

In her first season with the program, Rockets coach Jessica Urchek is working on turning a new leaf for Maplewood. While not the result they were after, there were some building blocks. Now they just need to clean up the errors

“I would have been satisfied with an 8-0 score after they came out in the first inning hitting the ball so hard,” Urchek said. “We had like two vital errors in that last inning that cost us and gave them some easier runs. I hope they can start catching up with the faster pitching and know that they can play at this level.”

Maplewood takes on Windham today in Windham. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.


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