Mathews blanks Badger, advances to district final

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mathews sophomore Rilee Paddock rounds second after hitting the game-sealing home run in the sixth inning.

NORTH JACKSON — An out-of-rhythm Mathews team is still pretty dangerous.

They weren’t themselves on Monday – and coach Jim Nicula would be the first to say it – but the Mustangs still brought the bats in a 10-0 victory over Badger in a Division IV, Jackson-Milton District semifinal contest.

“They didn’t start well. Our bus broke down and threw off our timing,” Nicula said. (Because of the tournament schedule) we had about 15 minutes to warm up. We’re sitting in a parking lot and it’s hotter than hell today, and you’re like, ‘Okay, when’s the bus going to get here?’ It just sort of threw everything into a tizzy at the beginning. They’re teenage kids and it takes a little bit to rebound from that.”

Despite the circumstances, the Mustangs rose to the occasion. Juniors Olivia Matheny and Ashia Pate threw a combined no-hitter in the win, with 13 strikeouts between them.

“(Both Matheny and Pate) were very strong in the circle,” Nicula said. “Other than that one error in the first inning which was a product of not having time to take warmups. After that, we settled down and played good defensively. Add in a no-hitter by both, so that’s nothing to be disappointed about, but I was disappointed with our at-bats. We didn’t square up on the ball consistently, and we just need to be better than that or we’re not going anywhere come Wednesday.”

While the bats weren’t where they needed to be, the Mustangs were aided by efficient baserunning. For much of the game, Mathews had someone in scoring position due to the team’s prowess on the basepaths.

If a ball was hit to the outfield, there was a good chance someone was scoring.

Rilee Paddock iced the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Badger’s season ends at 10-9. With a young core packed with freshmen, soon to be sophomores, the work for 2025 starts now. It starts with offense.

“We need to learn the offense more, obviously, that’s where we’ve been struggling,” Braves coach Greg O’Brien said. “When we see good pitching, it’s hard for us to put runs on the board, so we’ve got to get to work on the bats.”

The Braves graduate five seniors, including three of the team’s top five hitters, Elizabeth Price, Maria Baker, and Brianna Huscroft, as well as pitcher Molly O’Brien.

These seniors have been huge,” coach O’Brien said. “It’s been a good group. I think all of them are four-year lettermen. They’ve been a big part of this program for all four years, so it’s really going to be a big loss losing all of them.”

The Mustangs (20-8) will face Mineral Ridge in the District finals on Wednesday.

“We just need to come out and be ourselves and we’ll be fine,” Nicula said. “They’re going to play us really hard because we beat them during the regular season. Ridge has got two great guys that are second-year coaches that have a lot of passion for it. They’re going to give us all they’ve got and if we’re not ready to play, it’s going to be a dogfight.”

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


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