MANATEE -- State College of Florida pitcher Paige Mathews was once told she couldn’t cut it as a pitcher.
With each outing, those critics get more wrong.
“I would throw the ball over the catcher’s mitt and it would just go everywhere, and everybody told me I would never be a pitcher,” said Mathews of her travel-ball days as a 14- or 15-year-old. “It kept pushing me to ... dig down and really be better.”
Mathews’ latest gem for the State College of Florida Manatees came Thursday against Oakland (Mich.) Community College.
The freshman sensation made one run look like 10 in both appearances in Thursday’s doubleheader sweep. The Manatees won 8-2 and 4-0.
Mathews entered Game 1 with the Manatees (22-6) nursing a one-run lead and shut down the visiting Raiders’ comeback bid.
Then she took the ball for the second game and promptly delivered a 12-strikeout shutout.
Those 12 K’s, paired with the three she picked up as a reliever in Game 1, vaulted Mathews to the top of the stat sheet for all Florida junior college pitchers in strikeout totals.
But she’s not about personal achievements.
“I go out there and pitch for my team,” said Mathews, who improved to 11-2 with 122 strikeouts. “I don’t pitch for any record for myself. I just pitch for my team.”
Mathews, a freshman, is coming into her own at a good time for the Manatees, who are missing sophomore hurler Chelsea Oglevie, who is out with an injury.
Head coach Meredith Headings said Oglevie will be ready in a couple weeks.
On Thursday, the Manatees broke open a 3-2 game with a five-run sixth inning in which the club batted through the order to claim the first game.
Then they scored three times in the fifth inning of the second game to give Mathews some insurance, even though she didn’t need the runs.
“I said to one of my coaches in the dugout, ‘It’s 1-0, but I feel like I’m walking around like it’s 10-0,’” Headings said. “That’s the kind of confidence we have in her right now.”
Angie Dascoli went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs to lead the offense in the first game. Gianni Artidiello added a double and run in that triumph.
Kat Gavern had an RBI triple, while Melissa Phillips rapped a double to pace SCF in Game 2.
Dascoli’s biggest contribution, though, might just be her handiwork behind the plate.
Mathews pointed to Dascoli’s ability to call the game -- ordering when she should throw her rise, screwball, fastball, change-up, dropball and a curveball -- as well as Dascoli being a psychologist to keep her focused when things go sideways.
“I trust her with everything I have. ... I would say close to most of it,” said Mathews about how much credit Dascoli deserves for her pitching success. “If I didn’t have a catcher back there calling really good pitches, how much of a successful pitcher would I be?”