Mathews cuts it close | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff Photo / Brian Yauger Mathews pitcher Emma Gates throws into a pitch during the Mustangs’ 1-0 win over Badger in the Division IV District Semi-Final.

VERNON — The last two times Mathews and Badger played this season, the Mustangs won via the 10-point leniency rule. This time things were a little different.

Mathews still won, but it wasn’t like the 12-1, 13-0 antics earlier in the year. The Division IV district semi-final held in Badger was decided by a single run, which was scored in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior Kaylen McCollum knocked home fellow senior Emma Gates to take a 1-0 lead, which would be all that was needed to decide the contest.

The big difference maker for the Braves was in the circle. Badger pitcher Hunter Bengala, who didn’t pitch in either of the previous two encounters, was in the Braves’ circle. The senior struck out 10 batters.

Bengala’s arm and some nerves choked off the attack from Mathews, who had a knack for racking up runs all year.

“He’s a good pitcher,” Mustangs coach Tom VanKirk said. “She throws a bit of everything. We were a little pumped up. First big game, first district game and this Badger team is a good team. Also on their land. They kept us away.

Six and a half scoreless innings later, McCollum’s hit that scored Gates put the only notch on the scoreboard. Gates also held the circle for the Mustangs, striking out 14 and allowing three hits in a full game.

Badger’s season ends at 7-7. Despite the previous two meetings ending with a combined score of 25-1, the Braves were still looking for a win. They knew Mathews was going to be an imposing force, but having Bengala in the circle was key.

The Lake Erie College commitment allowed just six hits in what should be her last game as a pitcher. Bengala are likely to move into midfield on their way to college.

Braves coach Bengie Bengala, though disappointed, couldn’t be more proud of the girls. Between Hunter Bengala’s continued improvement and Molly O’Brien’s emergence this season among the other girls, the Braves did everything they could on Monday.

“I’m the proudest I’ve ever been of these girls,” said the Bengala coach. “Mathews has coached us twice this year. It’s always a tough team. They always have a lot of travel players. They’ve had freshmen this year who have come in and really stepped up.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game. I knew Hunter had to be aware of her throw and she did it very, very well. The most important thing to come in this game is that I told them, “Don’t get discouraged before it starts.” Let’s play the game. Let’s have fun. And if we lose, let’s make it respectable. And they did everything I could have asked of them. Just a few things here and there and things could have been different, but there’s no shame in losing to a team like Mathews. It’s an incredible team. »

The other senior on the list was Alexis Melvin, who has battled numerous injury issues over the past two seasons, often fighting through tears to keep playing.

The win moves the Mustangs to 19-4 on the year. It will be a rematch of last season’s District Finals when Mathews takes on Brookfield on Wednesday.

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