Jaguars topple Redbirds in conference opener
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Behind the strong pitching of Katelynn Cleveland and a three-run third inning, the Ashwaubenon softball team turned back De Pere 3-1 April 2 at De Pere High School.
The Fox River Classic Conference opener for both teams was played in blustery conditions.
The Jaguars parlayed two hits and two De Pere errors in the third to give Cleveland all the run support she needed.
“I think my defense was really behind me today,” said Cleveland, who struck out eight and allowed three hits. “When the ball was put in play, we made some awesome plays. When we score even one run, I get excited.”
The weather was a far cry from what Ashwaubenon experienced on its recent spring break trip in Florida, but the two teams were just happy to be playing.
“It wasn’t bad out there,” Cleveland added about the weather. “I actually prefer to pitch in the cold compared to the heat.”
The Jaguars got quality work on their trip south and went up against Ashley Hitchcock, a Rutgers University recruit in a 5-0 loss to Eastwood High School of Ohio.
“We put in a lot of time in Florida,” said Ashwaubenon head coach Shannon Van Laanen. “We had a few four to five-hour practices to take advantage of the weather. The team came together a little bit – traveling on a bus for 24 hours down there and back was good for us. Facing the quality teams we did will help us in our conference season.”
De Pere pitcher McKayleigh Piper was equally as effective on the mound in giving up only five hits and striking out four.
“We had the one bad inning with the unearned runs, but that’s how this sport is,” said De Pere head coach Matt Eakin. “That was our first time being outside on a field this season, so I thought it was great. When you start the season against Ashwaubenon, it’s a good test. They’ve been wonderful for years. We swung the bats today, but we went up against a great pitcher.”
Rachel Kerkhoff had two hits for the Redbirds.
Emily Blomquist led off the third with a double and was driven in on a Kerkhoff single for the only De Pere run.
A key moment in the game came in the bottom of the fourth with Piper at the plate.
After Makayla Alexander led off the inning for the Redbirds with a walk, the left-handed hitting Piper hit a rocket to short to begin a 6-4-3 double play.
Ashwaubenon: 003 000 0 – 3 5 0
De Pere: 001 000 0 – 1 3 2