By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON-63 minutes! That’s all it took to decide the outcome of Thursday afternoons softball contest between the Ashwaubenon Jaguars and Bay Port Pirates (May 25).
Boasting two of the better pitchers not only in NE Wisconsin, but in the entire state, Katelynn Cleveland and Sydney LaPoint went at it one last time in 2018.
This time Cleveland and her teammates from Ashwaubenon defeated Bay Port by a final of 1-0 when it mattered most.
The game produced only nine hits (Bay Port 5, Ashwaubenon 4).
Of the 142 pitches thrown, 103 were strikes!
Contrary to belief, the game started off looking like more than one run would be scored in the game.
After a strike out to start, Emma Hock stepped into the box and lined a ball to the outfield.
It struck the center fence and Hock settled in for a double.
LaPoint then hit a chopper that found a hole in the Jaguars infield.
She narrowly beat the throw to first and Hock advanced to third.
Maddy Ehlke then walked and suddenly the bases were juiced (one out) in the opening half inning of the game!
Fortunately for Cleveland the defense behind her stepped up in a big way!
Jordan Lee was next up and she lined a shot in the infield.
A subsequent throw home and tag by catcher Chloe Brabant saved a key run right out of the gates.
“We were in a position to take an early lead, and didn’t execute how we needed to,” said Dave Luedke, Bay Port Softball Coach. “We had the momentum through a few innings but just couldn’t get a run in.”
Seconds later, the Jaguars got out of the inning unscathed when Karigan Wood hit a shot to second that Peyton Wright routinely handled.
“We were tested right out of the gates,” said Katelynn Cleveland, Jaguars winning pitcher. “My teammates helped me out so much with their enthusiasm and defense. They (Bay Port) hit on me right from the get go and after we got that third out, I let out a sigh of relief.”
After a scoreless first for the Jaguars, the Pirates once again brought their bats to the forefront in inning number two.
Alexis Tingley led off with a single down the third base line that was called fair by the side umpire.
After a failed attempt at a bunt by the Pirates and one out, the visitors got caught up in a run-down and Tingley was tagged out at third base.
Cleveland once again got out of the inning with one of her patented strike outs.
The Pirates struck for two more hits in the third, but the scoreboard still read 0-0 after two and a half innings.
“I am so proud of the girls for hanging in there for the first few innings,” said Shannon VanLaanen, Jaguars Softball Coach. “We could have fallen down by multiple runs, and instead we closed out each inning with tremendous plays. All the credit to the players on and off the field for keeping their composure and not giving in when faced with adversity.”
The tide turned in the bottom of the third for the Jaguars.
After a strike out to start, Anna Wendorf got the bats going for the home squad when she hit a shot that just missed going over for a home run.
The wind-aided shot produced a double, and Jamira Olson then came into pinch run for Wendorf.
Tatum Scheffel then produced back to back hits for the Jaguars when she mustered a shot to center that found the grass and Olson trucked home to put the Jaguars up 1-0.
A strike out and failed stolen base attempt ended any further scoring chances.
The next two innings were a showcase of pitching as neither team saw much life on the bases.
In the top of the sixth, with the score still 1-0 in favor of the Jaguars, short stop Kally VanLaanen made a tremendous catch to force a second out, and then third basemen Maddy Coopmans dove for a foul ball at the edge of the Jaguars dugout to snag the third out.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Jaguars miss a golden attempt to further their one run lead.
Zion Estano lined a curving shot down the left half of the field.
Two Pirates mistimed the ball and it went all the way to the fence out of the context of the field.
Estano settled in for a triple.
One out later, Blasczyk hit a shot that was gloved and thrown to third for a pick-off to end the inning abruptly!
The Pirates had one final chance in the top of the seventh, but Cleveland and the rest of the Jaguars remained strong and went 1-2-3 to capture the game.
“I’m frustrated for the kids and it hurts to lose in a one run game,” added Luedke. “We are young, though, and the freshman and sophomores will move up next year and continue to grow.”
Ashwaubenon moves onto the Sectional Semi-Finals where they will travel to Green Bay Preble and take on the Hornets Tuesday May 29.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to not only win a Regional Championship for this program but to get the chance to play a wonderful team in Preble in the Sectionals,” VanLaanen relayed. “Just so proud of everybody involved in this softball organization today.”
Ashwaubenon 0,0,1,0,0,0,0 1
Bay Port 0,0,0,0,0,0,0 0