By Murray Gleffe, Correspondent
CHAIN OF LAKES, FL-
(Game 1-Mar. 28) The Ashwaubenon Jaguars softball team opened up in grand style with a 4-1 victory over the Rockets of Oak Harbor (Ohio).
The school located about 40 miles southeast of Toledo was coming off a 29-2 season.
The Jaguars got on the board first in the second inning after Katelynn Cleveland led off with a triple to right center. She later scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Kally VanLaanen.
Ashwaubenon then broke things open in the fifth inning by scoring three runs.
Chloe Brabant and Alexa Blasczyk connected on back to back singles and Cleveland brought them both home with a double to the fence.
The Jaguars did give up one run late, but still managed to defeat the Rockets by three runs.
Cleveland got the win striking out seven, giving up six hits, and walking two.
Josie Hilbert and Syd Zabel each had two hits in the win.
“I was extremely pleased with our pitching and defense,” said Shannon VanLaanen, Jaguars Softball Coach. “Cleveland got ahead of batters and the defense was solid. Cleveland’s bat got us going early and the insurance runs late were big.”
(Game 2-Mar. 28) The Jaguars didn’t want to show the world that they were a one-hit wonder down in Florida.
They came back and really put their hitting on display late versus Sandusky of Ohio.
The Jaguars cranked out seven hits, and had multiple walks en route to a convincing 11-4 win over the Streaky Bears.
With the score deadlocked at two apiece through four innings, Ashwaubenon’s Cleveland drove home Zion Estano and Caitlin Morris who were on second and third to put the Jaguars up 4-2. Later in the inning, Blasczyk scored on a wild pitch and the floodgates had opened.
The Jaguars tallied two more runs in each of the last innings to win going away.
Zabel gave up two runs in four innings to earn the victory, and Cleveland the save going the final three innings.
(Game 3-Mar. 29) The Ashwaubenon Jaguars wanted to end their 1400-mile trip in grand style!
With two games and two victories under their belt, their final challenge came against the Chapel Hill Tigers who play within a few miles of the mighty University of North Carolina Tarheels.
The Jaguars appeared weary to start the contest as they quickly fell behind 3-1 after a couple innings and then 5-1 after the fifth.
The Jaguars could not stop the powerful bats of the Tigers from connecting.
The Jaguars did not want to exit Florida on a losing note!
Entering the bottom of the sixth with things slipping away, Cleveland hit a chopper that made it past the infield and all of a sudden things seemed to turn the Jaguars way.
VanLaanen followed suit with a single of her own, and then Josie Hilbert connected to bring the green and gold back to within two runs.
Nothing more was added in that inning, but after the Jaguars held the Tigers to no runs in the top of the seventh, it set up the dramatic finish!!
With one out, and six strikes from being ousted, Brabant singled up the middle to put a base runner on for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars added a second out, giving the team one final chance to score!!
Kally VanLaanen confidently came up to bat and singled to bring home one run to bring the Jaguars within 5-4.
Hilbert then brought the ‘house down’ with a single blast money shot to center field to bring in the final two runs and give the Jaguars a 6-5 come from behind victory!
Players, coaches, and fans set off in jubilation with the dramatics to end the contest.
“We started out slow and I was disappointed that we didn’t get the big hit despite having runners in scoring position the first three innings,” Van Laanen said. “I couldn’t have been more proud of the fight we showed in the final two innings. Many took turns getting the big at bat before Josie’s big hit started the comeback. “
The Jaguars will take their 3-0 mark to Green Bay Southwest on April 3.