Matt Mason labored as the boys basketball coach at Waterloo High School for seven years, knowing all along that his real passion belonged to the dirt diamonds with 60-foot bases.
He’s played fast-pitch softball himself since sometime in the late 1980s and continues today with a team based out of Pinckneyville.
So when the girls coaching job came open at Waterloo at the end of last season, Mason thought the fit was a natural.
“I’ve always had a passion for the game and had worked as an assistant for coach (Sarah) Renner the last three years,” Mason said. “I was approached by our AD, who said the job was open. I felt like I knew this group of girls and that they had good talent and that they are a good group to coach. I thought I’d give it a shot.”
So how have things gone for Mason and the Bulldogs through their first 19 games together?
“I’d say pretty well,” Mason said.
That’s probably an understatement. At a perfect 19-0, Waterloo has emerged as one of the most dominant teams in the metro-east.
The Bulldogs have done it both at the plate and in the pitcher’s circle and have outscored their opponents by an average of six runs per game.
Senior pitcher Kasey Bradley says she’s hit 62 mph on the radar gun with her fastball, which she pairs with an effective change-up and rise ball. She’s got 12 of the Waterloo wins to go with a 0.85 earned run average. In 82 innings, Bradley has struck out 84 batters and walked just 14.
Junior Mallory Meyer also has struck out 39 against just two walks in 35 innings pitched.
At the plate, the Bulldogs are led by senior Emelia Modglin, whose .540 batting average is tops on the team, and Erica Schaab, who has clubbed a team-high three home runs while driving in 24.
Kylie Albrecht (.467, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 23 runs), Taylor Augustine (.379, 12 RBI) and Hannah King (.354, 16 RBI) also have been major contributors.
Mason says some recent inconsistency on offense has kept the Bulldogs from being as good as they can be.
“We’re not swinging the bats as well as we would like to right now, but we are winning games and we are getting good pitching,” Mason said after his team scratched out a 2-1 win in Red Bud on Friday. “The kids are working hard. We’re going to get to the point where we break through and get to where we want to be.”
The Bulldogs have since won consecutive games in dominating fashion, defeating Woodlawn 17-1 and Civic Memorial 11-0. But if anything holds the Bulldogs back, Bradley says, it’s that “0” in the loss column and the pressure that comes with maintaining it.
“It gets stressful,” said the senior pitcher. “Every game we have to come out strong and work hard and live up to the name on our shirts. It’s like every game is important.”
Being undefeated is only an obstacle, Mason said, if it takes the fun out of playing.
“Sometimes the energy isn’t where it needs to be,” Mason said. “Being undefeated may be weighing on them and sometimes it feels like they are not having a lot of fun. They need to be having fun. They are teenagers. I can talk to them all I want, but in the end it’s a thing they have to deal with in their own way.
“But I think they will eventually. All it takes is a breakout game. Somebody is going to start hitting, then everybody else will to.”