Mathews looking for berth in regional

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Chloe Sweitzer prepares to make contact in Mathews’ sectional bracket final win Wednesday over Windham.

VIENNA — The Mathews Mustangs are on to their fourth district tournament in as many years after taking down Windham, 12-2, in a Division IV sectional bracket final on Wednesday.

“It was anybody’s game,” Mustangs coach Jim Nicula said. “Anytime you play against (Windham coach) Elliot (Thompson), he’s a very, very good, tenured coach, been around a long time and he knows how to do things and get his kids ready and stuff. So, I was very happy with the way things went.

“I thought we hit the ball well and played good defense. We might have got a little bit complacent in the middle innings a little bit, didn’t press on the offensive end of it, but we’re just very happy to be moving into the district next week.”

Mathews came out hot, opening the contest with an inside-the-park home run on their first at-bat of the game. Leadoff hitter Ashley Deans took advantage of a fielding error and got her team on the board.

The Mustangs added five more runs to that, finishing the first inning with a 6-1 lead. Chloe Sweitzer, Lena Wallace, Bella Spano, Hannah Mangus, Kylie Nicholson and Savanna Eggens all rounded the bases in the inning. Nicula says it’s in the team’s makeup to start games that way.

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Becca Landis throws a pitch in the fourth inning of the game. Landis finished with eight strikeouts.

“We preach that, it’s part of our softball DNA over here,” Nicula said. “We always want to start the game like it’s the middle of the game. We’re not feeling our way into the game to see how the other team is. Everybody knows everybody in districts and we know what everybody’s capable of doing.

“They ended up taking the first run, but we came back with an inside-the-park, error-aided you know, a home run there or whatever on the bunt. … Then it takes pressure off and allows everybody to relax and go about their business.”

After that spark in the first inning and a three-run outburst in the second, the bats for the Mustangs kind of cooled off. Nicula did what he could to rekindle that spark.

“I just told them we have to play 21 outs,” Nicula said. “You don’t play four innings, you play seven. You have to play the entire game at the same level of play. You don’t turn it on and off. You want to always put pressure on the other team on offense and on defense. We just got a little bit complacent in the middle there. I just had to tell them that we need to turn it up and take care of business.”

Going forward in the tournament, their goal remains the same as every year.

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Kylie Nicholson runs to first after hitting the ball in the first inning. She finished with two RBIs.

“Our goal is to get at least to regionals and beyond if possible,” Nicula said. “We’ve really had success getting to regionals. We fell short last year and we want to get back there so, you know, we know there’s a lot of competition ahead of us and we’re just taking it one game at a time.

“That’s our goals, go to districts and get through to regionals.”

Mathews didn’t make it to the regional last year, falling to McDonald in a district semifinal, but they’re using that loss as motivation going forward.

“It leaves a bitter taste when we don’t get out of districts,” Nicula said. “We pride ourself on making the regionals even before I got here. The teams before that made it two years in a row. That’s definitely our goal, to get there and we use last year’s loss as fuel to do it.”

The Mustangs will take on Brookfield in a Warren District semifinal at Candlelight Knolls on Monday.