Mathews rolls past Badger, takes first step in return to state

VIENNA – After the Mathews softball team made a run to the Division IV state championship game last season and with expectations high for another deep run this season, the Mustangs are trying to take it one step at a time.

Tuesday afternoon was the first step as the Mustangs took care of business to beat Badger in their Division IV sectional final, 8-2.

“It’s the first step on the staircase,” senior Jessica Marsico said. “You’re taking it one thing at a time, and that’s what we needed to do in order to get to where we need to be.”

Marsico set the tone for Mathews early by drilling a two-run home run over the left-field fence, and the senior shortstop put in a 3-for-3 performance at the plate with three RBIs. Because of hers and others’ efforts, the Mustangs (18-6) ran out to a 7-0 lead after four innings.

At this point, Mathews coach Jim Nicula elected to give some of his backups playing time, replacing five of his regular starters. He even threw Marsico in the circle for the final two innings to give ace Cheyenne Eggens a rest, as the Mustangs have two games against Lordstown later this week, which could clinch a Northeastern Athletic Conference title.

“I like shortstop, but it feels good to be in the circle, too,” Marsico said. “To get our pitcher some relief, some rest for the bigger games… It’s fun.”

While Badger (4-13) struggled early, the Braves pegged two runs back in the final two innings, managing to not be shutout and run-ruled like when the two teams faced off three weeks ago.

Badger coach Ron Tingler said his team settled down against the Mustangs after some initial nervousness, and he was proud his team managed to beat John F. Kennedy in the sectional semifinals to get a chance to play the Mustangs, considering the Braves struggled with injuries all season.

“At the beginning of the year, we said, ‘To work all year to win a tournament game, and let’s play the next game,’ ” Badger Ron Tingler said. “They got to do that. We’re a young team. They’re struggling, but they’ve really come together and I’m proud of them.”

As for the Mustangs, they move on to play Windham (17-6) in the district semifinals at 6 p.m. on Monday at Candlelite Knolls in Bazetta. Despite the desire of the team to go back to Akron, Nicula said the team will not underestimate the Bombers.

“We’re way away from the state final,” Nicula said. “(Tuesday) was the sectional final, we won it. It’s a great thing. We want to make a deep run, but we’re very smart in knowing that we can’t overlook anybody and take it one game at a time.”