Blast from the past
Hall’s homer lifts Mathews to victory in battle of unbeatens
ORWELL — The Mathews softball team has been there and done that when it comes to playing from behind to win a ballgame.
To that end, the Mustangs were trying a bit too hard to make something happen early on in a road game at Grand Valley.
That all changed when Bailey Hall drove the ball over the fence in left-center field as Mathews scored a 6-4 victory in a battle of unbeatens in Northeastern Athletic Conference action.
“Everyone was trying to make something happen,” Mathews coach Jim Nicula said. “We were pressing a bit. (GV pitcher) Abby Triskett spins the ball well and she locates it well. I think we got the runs in the first inning on our energy. We were both undefeated in the league. There was a lot at stake. We came out fine then struggled against their pitcher. We stayed the course. We’ve been in this situation a lot in the last three years.”
To that end, the Mustangs (8-0, 7-0) just had to settle in and play. They did exactly that and ran off four runs in the top of the fifth to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.
“We’re old-school,” Nicula said. “We have six seniors and four juniors and we four or five freshmen today. Our program is solid from the youth level on up. Even though we had a freshman pitcher, we had a veteran team around her. They know what to do. We won a ton of games the last three years. This team wants to make its mark this year. The teams before them went to regional several times and played in a state final. The goal is to be a program like Champion or Poland and I think we are there. It’s because of the kids. The kids believe in the program.”
Hall’s blast brought Mathews to within 4-3 with one out in the fifth.
“I just remembered what Coach said,” Hall said. “He said to keep my feet down before the pitch. I focused on making good contact and hit it. I didn’t even look (to see the ball go out of the park). I was just running.”
Alivia Oulton followed with a single, as did Noelle Migliozzi, moving Oulton to third. The ball sailed into center field when Migliozzi stole second allowing Oulton to score. Emily Derkach popped the ball up just in front of the plate, but the GV defender was unable to make the play allowing Derkach to reach base. Nicole Watts reached on a fielder’s choice when Grand Valley unsuccessfully tried to throw Migliozzi out at the plate. The throw got away from GV catcher Dani Shreve allowing Derkach to score to give Mathews the 6-4 edge heading to the home half of the fifth.
“(Hall’s home run) gave me energy,” Oulton said. “It made me want to hit, too. We were one step closer. We got hungry. We weren’t hitting well and we saw her do it. That gave us energy.”
Freshman hurler Lena Wallace held Grand Valley (6-1, 6-1) in check over the final four innings for the win in relief of Watts.
“Nicole has a strained pectoral,” Nicula said. “We’re bringing her along slowly. She’s a veteran pitcher and she’s taken the two freshmen under her wing. Of our eight wins, the freshmen have six of them. (Wallace) was just a contrast to Nicole. Nicole throws harder. Lena was a changeup. She’s significantly slower (than Watts). She spots the ball well. She makes it tough to time her up and square the ball up.”
Wallace got five of the 12 outs she recorded via the ground ball and three more by way of pop ups.
“I was working my spots inside and outside,” Wallace said. “I was mixing in my changeup and that threw them off a little bit.”
Mathews took a 2-0 lead in the first without the benefit of a base hit. Paige Sponsler was hit by a pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Oulton and Hall reached on an error before later scoring on a sac fly by Derkach.
Cassandra Gallo cut the Grand Valley deficit in half in the bottom of the first after doubling and scoring on a single by Triskett. The Mustangs took the lead in the third behind a one-out homer from Dani Shreve and a two-run blast from Leah Patterson.
“We weren’t doing anything,” Grand Valley coach Terry Hejduk said. “It was (Watts). She was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes. We noticed that and I told the girls to to go up and look to hit the first or second pitch. We started to time her up. She has a good off-speed pitch, but she wasn’t throwing it until late in the count. We were hitting the pitches early in the count and not allowing her to get to that pitch.
“We’re a good fastball-hitting team. We pounded the ball today – better than the final score indicates.”