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Errors and big inning prove costly for top-seeded Ashwaubenon

By Heather Graves
Correspondent


ASHWAUBENON – The Ashwaubenon softball team battled for nine, hard-fought innings, but a top-of-the-ninth grand slam from Kimberly’s second baseman Morgan VanderMissen gave the Papermakers a 9 to 5 victory in a WIAA Division 1 Regional Final game played at Pioneer Park May 23.

“I thought Kimberly played a great game,” said Ashwaubenon head coach Shannon VanLaanen. “They threw three different girls and kept us off balance. They didn’t give in. They did well.”

Ashwaubenon got off to a slow start at Phil Adam Field, going down 2-0 in the first inning with two single home runs by the Papermakers.

Kimberly added to its lead in the third with two more runs after a hit to centerfield was bobbled and dropped, increasing its lead to 4-0.

Ashwaubenon finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when centerfielder Zion Estano brought in two to cut the deficit to 4-2.

The Papermakers added one more in the seventh, stretching their lead to 5-2.

The Jaguars weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Ashwaubenon rallied in the bottom of the seventh – tying things up with RBI hits by shortstop Kally VanLaanen and another by leftfielder Josie Hilbert with no outs – bringing fans to their feet.

With the go-ahead runner on third, Kimberly changed pitchers and handed the Jaguars three back-to-back outs, ending the seventh.

On to extra innings the teams went, tied at five.

Kimberly had one base hit to start off the eighth, followed by three outs.

Ashwaubenon pitcher Kate Cleveland got on base with a grounder to center to start the bottom of the eighth, but a double play and pop-up out sent the Jaguars back on defense.

With the bases loaded and just one out in the top of the ninth, VanderMissen catapulted Kimberly into the lead with one swing, driving the ball over the centerfield fence to turn a tie game into a 9-5 lead.

Ashwaubenon ended the game with a three-up, three-down.

The Jaguars struggled early to put runs on the board and had a tough time defensively containing the powerful hitting of Kimberly, which had four home runs.

And while Kimberly made three pitching changes throughout the nine innings, Ashwaubenon stuck with the junior Cleveland for the entire game.

While disappointed in the loss, Coach VanLaanen was proud of how far the team came this season.

“The girls really worked together all year, really stuck together all year,” VanLaanen said. “No different than (during this game), down 5-2 in the last inning and they came back to get that game to tied and give ourselves an opportunity in extra innings. That’s all we ask, and they really stuck together.”

It was a tough loss for Ashwaubenon, especially for the three seniors that played their last games as Jaguars – Estano, Hilbert and Chloe Brabant.

“We are going to miss our seniors tremendously,” VanLaanen added. “All three are all-conference, and they are good kids. To lose three kids like that, it’s big for our program, but they helped lay a foundation, and did a great job at setting examples the younger girls.”

Kimberly will face off against West De Pere in the sectional semifinals next Tuesday, May 28.

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