The Mathews High School softball team has reached the Division IV regional tournament each of the last two years.
If the Mustangs' performance this season is any indication, another district title could be in their future.
Mathews is off to an 11-2 start after splitting a doubleheader Saturday against visiting LaBrae. The Mustangs won the first game, 5-4. The Vikings took the second game, 8-4.
First-year coach Jim Nicula credits an experienced core of juniors for continuing the success they established under former coach Gene Cheredar.
"They're the driving force," Nicula said. "It's a veteran group. They know how to play the game."
That starts at the top of the lineup with junior outfielder Tabby Granelly.
"She's probably our leading hitter in batting average and runs scored," Nicula said. "She's very knowledgeable. She knows when to steal a base and when to do a delayed steal. She has good speed, too."
Mathews also has sluggers. Nicula said junior shortstop Jessica Marsico has five home runs.
"She's our leading RBI player," Nicula said.
Jackie Rhine, another junior, bats cleanup.
"She's been a catalyst for us offensively and she is rock solid at third base," Nicula said. "She gets a lot of put-out opportunities there because teams like to bunt, and she handles the position very well."
Mathews' opponents probably bunt a lot because there isn't much they can do with the offerings of pitcher Cheyenne Eggens.
Eggens, a freshman, has replaced the graduated Brittany Schnarrs as the Mustangs' No. 1 pitcher.
"We have a really strong freshman class and Cheyenne is one of the big difference makers," Nicula said. "She'll be somebody who will be garnering a lot of college looks. She is definitely Division I material."
Nicula said Eggens throws in the mid-60s.
"She's averaging 10 strikeouts," he said. "She's usually in the 10-15 range and she had 17 last week against Garfield. For a freshman, she's very talented. She keeps us in games."
Eggens has been aided by catcher Hollie Shreves, another member of Mathews' junior core.
"Hollie has really been a good mentor for our pitcher," Nicula said. "She's really brought her along."
Senior outfielder Catie Cordy and sophomore first baseman Maddie Grimes lettered for Mathews in 2011, along with Granelly, Marsico, Rhine and Shreves.
"I think the future is really bright for our program,"?Nicula said. "We want to be up there with Champion and Poland."
BIG?MATCHUPS:?Mathews will host Champion (5-1) on Wednesday. Eggens will face Lindsay Swipas. ... Newton Falls (10-2) will host Lakeview (10-1) on Thursday in another battle of dominant pitchers between the Tigers' Bailey Shade and the Bulldogs' Alexis Neumeister.