Mattingly focused on task at hand

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge coach Gene Mattingly (10) isn't sure how he'd react if the Raiders finally win the state championship Tuesday, he's just focused on winning the game. 


HUNTINGBURG - Southridge coach Gene Mattingly is focused on winning Tuesday's Class 3A state championship game, and that alone.

The fact that the Raiders (25-7) will be going against the team who’s been ranked No. 1 in Hanover Central? That doesn't worry him. The thought that Southridge might finally pull through this year after falling just shy in 2018 and 2019? It's a scene that he hasn't played in his head, and if the Raiders win, he'll react however he reacts.

However, the things he does know about the Wildcats (29-3-1) are things that have earned his respect. They got here after a 7-0 win in the June 12 LaPorte Semi-State against Norwell.

"From what I've seen on video, I like the way they play," Mattingly told the Herald on June 15. "I like the way they're aggressive, they're energetic, they run, they hit with a little bit of power, they throw strikes, they don't walk people. They play a lot of the same style we play, and it's refreshing to see them play with that much emotion and that much energy. Other than the fact that they're in the other dugout at the same time we are, I'd be cheering for them if they weren't playing us."

The Raiders and their opponents from the northern part of the state might not be a mirror reflection of each other, but the similarities are there. The Raiders are notable for having four players who have signed to play baseball at the NCAA Division I level, but the Wildcats have Jared Comia, who committed to continue his baseball career at the University of Illinois when he was a sophomore.

On top of that, their senior class has also been on the radar since they were underclassmen. Adam Graham, Peyton Olejnik, Blaze Cano and lefty ace Bret Matthys all played when they were sophomores. Mattingly said they were getting ready for pitching this week by looking at curveballs from the left side. Matthys is set to continue his career at Purdue University Northwest.

"We don't have to worry about 92-to-94 like last week, we have have to worry about picking a spot and hitting whatever is in the window," Mattingly said.

Mattingly knows it would be difficult if the Raiders worried about preparing for their opponent - since there aren't common opponents or a lot of film, so he said they should prepare as if their toughest opponent was going to be themselves. He noted that it's nice to get eyes on an opponent to see tendencies, but at the end of the day, what Southridge does matters, and that's all that matters.

The Raiders can say they have the experience edge when it comes to Victory Field. Many players who were on those Class 2A state runner-up teams in 2018 and 2019 are back now, and he knows those who have been there before won't be wowed by everything.

The Wildcats, at least these Wildcats, are new to this stage. Hanover Central's only other semi-state championship came in 2011, when it bowed out to South Spencer in the Class 2A state championship game.

"If they're better than us and they play better than us, they're going to win," he said. "If we're better than them and we play better, we're going to win."

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