“It’s going to be a big knot in our stomach,” Castner said. “I know this young lady (Mathis) is going to sit there and put it on herself. She needs to understand it’s not her. It’s all of us. It’s our whole team. They scored for so we needed to score five. This lady right here is a big-time leader.”
“I let one go and let her get a three-run jack. … As coach said, I’ll always put it on myself,” Mathis said. “One pitch got the best of me. Just know I’ll be in the off-season working as hard as I ever have so we can get back here and win this game.”
Mathis allowed seven hits, four runs (all earned), struck out five and walked three.
Panthers’ pitcher Missy Holzopfel, a Cleveland State University recruit, allowed three hits, two runs (one earned), struck out eight and walked one.
“She had her good stuff today,” Mathis said. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other pitcher. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves than we needed to. Just a little bit of nervousness. We all can hit one through nine, so it was hard for us not being able to string together hits like normal. … We’ll be ready next year.”
Perry (27-6) scored a run in the top of the first on a one-out single and two-out triple. Lakota West tied it in the bottom of the first on Belle Hummel walk and Molly Grace RBI double.
The Firebirds threatened again in the bottom of the seventh. Jo Jo Peregrina reached on a two-out error to third. Lily Volmer then doubled to make it 4-2. Holzopfel ended the game with a swinging strikeout.
“We knew coming they had a deep lineup,” Perry coach Scott Daugherty said. “They have that hitter – KK Mathis who is a stud – but we couldn’t pitch around her. LW had a 1-9 that could really smack the ball around.”
“We felt we had a chance,” Castner said. “That was a hard-fought game by both teams. … We’ve only been able to get to the final game one time. We know we lost to a very good team out there.”