Loogootee junior pitcher Matt Mathies couldn't have asked for a better start to the season.
Mathies threw a five-inning perfect game in the The Class A No. 9 Lions' (1-0) 14-0 victory over North Daviess (0-1) Friday night at Les Page Field.
The perfect game was the second in Loogootee school history. Lester Cantrell accomplished the feat against Vincennes Rivet in 1994.
Mathies didn't allow a North Daviess batter to hit a ball into the outfield, while striking out eight Cougar batters. Mathies' dominance was under the radar for much of the game as the Lions offense put 14 runs on the board.
"It was the fourth inning when we were talking about getting our lefty loose to finish," said Loogootee coach Roger Bailey. "When I said that I looked at our stat sheet and I realized he hasn't given up a hit yet. So I was thinking a no-hitter, and I realized he has a perfect game going, so we let him finish. Matt (Mathies) is just a gamer. When he has the baseball, I'm confident." Loogootee shot out of a cannon in the first inning with nine runs, four of them earned against freshman starting pitcher Josh Kemp.
Kemp walked three and allowed five hits, and threw 48 pitches in the nightmare first inning.
"We threw a freshman tonight, he's going to learn from it and he's going to get a lot better," said North Daviess coach Zach Stoll.
"It starts with the match ups, and we were really giving them a lot of experience on the mound, and it's tough to overcome that." The Lions took a 4-0 lead when Brandon Wilz scored Matt Mathies, Casey Miller and Conner Wittmer on a three-run double into the leftfield corner.
Loogootee added five more runs in the inning, and was aided by two errors by third baseman Trevor Wikle.
"We got ahead in the count, and we were able to look for fastballs," Bailey said. "We hit balls hard today, I was really pleased with the way we swung the bat as early as it is in the year." In the second inning, Kemp was replaced by Jacob Smiley. Wilz scored an Alex Frye groundout, and Jesse Horney added a two-run double to push the lead to 12-0. The Lions added two more runs in the third inning to give them 14 runs for the game.
Mathies, Miller, Wittmer, Wilz, Trevor Resler and Nolan Walker scored two runs apiece. Wilz had three RBIs and Jesse Horney added two more. The one low light of the evening was for Horney.
Attempting to stretch a double into a triple, Horney slid awkwardly into second base and had to be helped off the field. Bailey said Horney, who had been dealing with a hamstring injury, injured the other hamstring and is questionable when he'll be able to return to the lineup.
For Loogootee, a program that has won two straight sectional championships, and finished with a 24-7 record last season, it¹s always nice to start the season with a victory.
"I don't think it's necessary to come out blazing, but you're playing for June, that's when you win championships," Bailey said. "We want to set the tone, we want to build confidence early. We want the guys to get used to winning, so it¹s expected. Your home opener - it's always nice to win that one." Despite the lopsided loss, Stoll says he's not concerned about his young team getting rattled going forward with the season, and he knows his team will improve.
"Last year they (Loogootee) beat us like a drum in the first game of the year and we came back in sectional and in the fifth inning. We had a lead in the game," Stoll said. "It is what it is at this point. I expect us to grow, and we're going to gain a lot of experience. We'll see where it's at in two months." The test for Loogootee is to make sure there is no let down going forward, and Bailey is confident that his experienced team will keep its eye on doing the little things it takes to win games.
"We need solid defense, don't make any mistakes, don't give anything away and pitching,² Bailey said. "As long as we throw strikes and we're around the plate, I think we'll put up enough runs to be competitive."