Italy — With honored guest Karen Mathiowetz, a 1968 Italy High School graduate and cancer survivor, on deck to throw out the ceremonial opening-pitch, both the Lady Gladiators and Maypearl Lady Panthers applauded as a fearless, proud and pink-shirted Karen plotted her way toward the mound. Turning and aiming for catcher Alyssa Richards, Karen tossed a high-arching pink softball, previously autographed by the Lady Gladiators, that sailed directly over home plate and into the waiting mitt of Alyssa, as if to say, “Take that cancer!”
Again, the crowd cheered as Karen met Alyssa for hug and then headed toward Italy’s dugout to give more high-fives and hugs to the coaches and players, “I love my girls,” commented Karen before joining her husband Brian Mathiowetz in the bleachers. The concession stand proceeds, donations made at the concession stand during the game, the booster club’s Dippin’ Dots commissions and shirt sales will all be combined with the concession stand proceeds, donations, shirt sales, etc. from the non-district baseball game between Italy and Hubbard on Good Friday, April 6, in Italy and then one total payment will be made towards cancer research.
Karen’s precision pitching set the stage for Senior Lady Gladiator slinger Megan Richards who stepped in for Karen to take on the Lady Panthers. Maypearl took advantage of the moment and quickly put two runners on base. With two outs, however, a third strike from Megan for the third out stranded both base runners for Maypearl.
In the bottom of the first-inning, Italy goes three up and three down as the game moves quickly to the top of the second-inning. Lady Gladiator right fielder Alma Suaste backs up an overthrow to first base who then shoots down the Lady Panther runner at second base for the first out. Second baseman Madison Washington covers first on short hit by Maypearl to collect the second out. Maypearl gets a runner on base but another strike three delivered by Megan gets the needed third out.
Now in the bottom of the second with one out, Paige Westbrook gets walked and then beats the catchers’s throw to steal second, sliding hands first to reach the base. Washington singles past the first baseman’s glove down the line for a single to score Westbrook from second base, 1-0, Italy strikes first. Katie Byers bunts to advance Washington to second but gets thrown out at first for the second out. Suaste grounds out to the mound for the third but not before Italy takes the lead.
Megan remains on the mound in the top of the third. Maypearl grounds out to Bailey Bumpus at shortstop who fires to teammate Jaclynn Lewis covering first. Maypearl lofts the ensuing pitch into the left field gap where Byers picks it up and throws on a line to Bumpus to stop Maypearl’s progress. Megan gets a strikeout for the next out. The next batter rockets a line drive to Bumpus. A slight bobble allows enough time for the Maypearl hitter to reach first base and give the Lady Panthers runners at both first and third. Again, Megan bullets a strike three pitch to get the third out for Italy and keep Maypearl off the board, Italy leads 1-0.
Slap hitter, Bailey Eubank, grounds out to start the bottom of the third. Megan powers a fly ball to right field but it’s caught by the Lady Panthers for the second out. Bumpus hits a grounder to second base but Maypearl throws her out at first for the third out. Italy continues to connect on the ball and jab away at the Lady Panthers but will have to, once again, contain Maypearl’s hitters as the matchup heads into the top of the fourth-inning.
A grounder to Megan at the mound results in a throw to Lewis for the first out. Alyssa drops the third strike from her sister but calmly throws the runner out at first base to a waiting Lewis, two outs. Megan delivers another strike three for the third out as Italy begins to assert their will.
With lewis reaching first base to begin the bottom half of the fourth-inning, Alyssa follows with a double to the left field gap. With two runners on, Westbrook battles her way to a walk and loads the bases for Italy. Washington hits the ball back to the mound but opts to get the force out home for the first out, bases still loaded. Byers mimics Washington and returns the ball to the pitcher who, again, gets the force out at home for the second out, bases remain loaded. Suaste grounds out to Maypearl’s shortstop who steps on second base for the force out to rescue Maypearl from the fourth-inning. Italy still clings to a 1 run advantage.
Now in the top of the fifth-inning, with one out and a runner at first, Maypearl connects on a fly ball to left field that hits near foul territory. The plate umpire rules it a fair ball and Byers tracks it down. The relay into Alyssa, who is guarding home plate, temporarily holds the Lady Panther runner at third. However, during the foul ball confusing, the Maypearl batter only made it about halfway to first base, and with the ball now in the hands of Italy’s All-State catcher, Alyssa throws the batter out at first base with Lewis making the grab. This prompts the runner on third base to head for home but Lewis returns the ball back to Alyssa who is in position to tag the sliding runner out at the plate. The double play keeps Maypearl from tying the game and gets Italy safely out of this paragraph.
In the bottom of the fifth with two on base, Lewis pelts an RBI double scoring Megan, Italy leads 2-0. Bumpus was tagged out attempting to reach third base on the play, two down for Maypearl. A foul ball blast by Alyssa rattles the Maypearl pitcher who then walks the threat, two on for Italy. Westbrook doubles to centerfield to score Lewis from second base and Italy goes up 3-0. Washington flies out to short for the third out.
Maypearl tries to rally in the top of the sixth-inning, but with two outs, a Maypearl runner is tagged out at home by Alyssa, who always guards the plate, for the third out. In the bottom of the sixth, Byers relies on her base-stealing quicks to reach third base. Eubank slaps down a single to score Byers to give Italy a 4-0 lead.
Maypearl has one last chance to extend the game but Westbrook snags a grounder to third base and guns her down with authority to Lewis at first, leaving no doubt that this game was about to end. A grounder to the mound allows Megan to throw over to Lewis for the second out. Finally, a pop-up to shallow left is hauled in by Bumpus with the Senior making a difficult over the shoulder catch to end the contest and preserve Italy’s 4-0 shutout win over Maypearl.