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Matthews works way into leader at Nazareth

Nazareth senior Maddie Matthews will play at Alvernia next year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

As a softball player, Maddie Matthews has the perfect job.

Matthews is a senior first baseman on the Nazareth Academy High School softball team, and when she’s not at school or playing softball for the Pandas, she’s at work.

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When she’s there, she’s not just working, she’s putting in the work at the Newtown Athletic Club.

“I work at the sports training part, the batting cages, at the NAC,” said Matthews, who lives in Langhorne. “I work the front desk, so I’m not a coach or anything like that, but there are a lot of great coaches there who will help you.

“We’re allowed to use the tunnels for free when we have time, and that’s really good. It’s a lot of fun. My manager coaches Council Rock baseball, and he’s great. I’m able to learn a lot from him. It’s a great job for a softball player.”

Then it’s the perfect job for Matthews, because this year, she’s one of the top players at Nazareth.

Matthews has been a two-year starter for the Pandas, and had the possibility to see time as a sophomore when the season was canceled because of the pandemic. She arrived at Nazareth not knowing a lot of people, but immediately connected with her softball teammates.

“I went to Catholic grade school, and when I was looking, Nazareth was my favorite,” Matthews said. “It was great from the start, but not playing sophomore year was tough. We were probably going to be really good that year, too, so it was disappointing.

“Last year was good, we had a bunch of good seniors and all of the juniors now that are still good. And now we have nine seniors, so we are really close.”

All of the seniors are talented players and Matthews is doing her best to contribute with her bat as well as with her voice.

“I would say this year I’m one of the leaders pretty much,” Matthews said. “We have a lot of good seniors, so we all try to lead. I’ve been hitting OK. They switch it around a lot, sometimes I hit first, sometimes I hit fourth. I like hitting anywhere. I guess my favorite spot would be third. Leading off, you have to get on, and people expect RBIs at four. When you hit third, you can just go up and hit.”

The Pandas are starting to heat up, too. They’re 4-4 on the season, but this was after starting 1-3. They won three straight during that streak.

“It’s going really good, we started off rocky, but we’ve been doing better recently,” Matthews said. “We’re practicing more and becoming more of a team. We play a tough schedule, a lot of games canceled because of the rain. We couldn’t practice a lot because of the weather, but now that we’re playing, we’re playing well.”

The Pandas are on the right track under coach Danielle Vittitow, and the coach is happy to have Matthews serve as one of the role models for her younger players.

“Maddie is a great senior leader both on and off the field,” Vittitow said. “She has a positive attitude, a good work ethic, a willingness to learn and made new varsity players feel comfortable and in the mix from day one. These attributes are contagious and set the tone for the team.

“Maddie has increased her skill level as a first baseman and does a great job with her receiving range and picking balls out of the dirt. I know her fellow infielders appreciate that and feel comfortable with her in that position. Although she primarily plays first base for us, she can also play third and has good outfield skills. Having this wide range of skills will be great for her in her post-high school play.”

She already knows where she’ll be playing next year. She’s bound for Alvernia, where she’ll continue her softball career. It was a perfect fit for her.

“I love the coach and the campus, he made me an offer,” Mathews said. “I didn’t know it was coming, but it was very exciting.

“I’m looking at physical therapy. I love sports and I know I want to stay involved in that, and I love science so it should be a great fit.”

But before she goes, she has unfinished business left at Nazareth.

Not only does she want to win with this team, she wants to win for this coach. And she would love to see Nazareth add some hardware before she moves on.

“We have a really close team, we’ve been friends since we started playing together,” Matthews said. “I didn’t come to Nazareth for softball, but I love the team. And I love playing for (Vittitow).  I like how she pushes us, but she’s not mean. She knows exactly how far to push us to do better. She’s a lot of fun to play for.

“I want to win our league. I would love to win states, too. I think we can do it. I think we’re very together. Once one person hits, we all hit well. We all have a lot of energy, we cheer a lot. We like playing together. And once one of us gets going, we all follow. It’s a really close team.”

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